Why Does it Cost So Much to Correct a ‘Check Engine’ Light?

Many different car dashboard lights in closeup
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Many might wonder, “Why does it cost so much to correct a ‘check engine’ light?” In our last article, we looked at what car codes are and what a check engine light really means.

Since the engine light diagnostic process can be a bit technical, it can be described using a simple analogy that most all of us can relate to: Going to the doctor.

Going to the doctor when something is wrong with you, is like your check engine light coming on and getting it looked at. When the doctor asks you what is wrong or checks your vitals, that is similar to automotive technicians using a scan tool to retrieve a car code.

Let’s say you have pain in your left-hand index finger. If you use a cheap code reader, it will tell you your finger hurts on your left hand. If you use a scan tool, it will tell you that your index finger on your left hand hurts. This is similar to doctors using more advanced tests to diagnose your ailment. Doctors might think the problem can be fixed simply, with just a band-aid, if they don’t run all the tests.

Similarly, if you took your car code problem to an automotive parts house, they would likely say that the issue can be fixed with a simple part, without looking at all the factors. But, if you took your car to a certified technician upfront, they could diagnose the problem and correct the specific problem, and not just provide a temporary fix.

These are the basic diagnostic steps a doctor takes, when assessing your finger pain:

  • The first step is the doctor would look at your finger to see if it is cut and decide if a band-aid will fix it.
  • If it is not cut and not in the wrong position, then he must take an x-ray.
  • If he does not see broken bones, then the doctor must use an MRI to check tendons and ligaments.
  • If there is no problem found, he must check the nerves (wires) to your brain (computer).
  • Now he must make sure all other components, nerves, fingers, blood flow, etc. are all correct. Once he determines that all other parts are good, then he will look at your brain (computer).

The problem with simple finger pain, is that it could be caused by a variety of issues, meaning that it could be overly complicated to fix it. This is also true when it comes to car codes and getting that check engine light to go away.

At White’s Automotive, every mechanic has undergone training to thoroughly understand and diagnose engine problems. The diagnostic problems could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours or more to complete. It may take one test or more to diagnose your vehicle and provide a viable solution.

Look for next month’s article from White’s Automotive Center, where they will look at the same system, but different problems.

White's Automotive Center, serving Columbus, Fort Benning and Phenix City