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How many times have you seen the lights on your dash, either when you just started your vehicle or maybe you’ve seen the infamous check engine light, and you’ve wondered to yourself, “What do these hieroglyphics even mean?” This information center is the only way your vehicle has to be able to communicate with you about issues it may be having.

From simply forgetting to put your seat belt on, to letting you know your oil level is getting low, it is very important to know what the lights are telling you. No matter what kind of vehicle you have, it should have an owners manual with a section that details the specific meaning of each light, but many of the lights you see are universal with most cars and trucks.

A shop teacher once told me that the only thing you know for sure when the check engine light is on, is that the check engine light is on. There are literally thousands of codes that will trigger the Check Engine Light to come on. The system is referred to as OBD-II, On Board Diagnostics and all new cars since 1996 come equipped with this system. This is a fault registering system connected to the engine, the fuel system and the emissions system.

The most common reason we see for the Check Engine Light coming on is the gas cap not being put back on tightly enough. The easiest way to know if you’ve tightened it enough is to make sure it clicks several times at the end of tightening it. If your light IS on, check that first.

There are handheld OBD2 diagnostic tools that you can plug into the port on your car and can read and/or reset the system to contain no codes to see if the code(s) come back on. There are two categories of codes, historical/inactive and active. The historical codes list issues that may have cropped up or were detected previously but there was no followup or continued problem and are no longer and issue. Active codes indicate an ongoing and present issue that needs to be addressed. Codes are subdivided into P-codes (powertrain) the largest list, C-codes (chassis), and finally B-codes (body).

The second most common light is the Service Engine Soon which may appear or read as “Service Engine” or “Maint Reqd” this simply indicates your engine oil and filter need to be changed. Some cars read this based upon miles traveled while the newer vehicles read engine temperatures, air temperatures and oil temperatures and other indicators that register stress the engine has been exposed to that may indicate the need for servicing sooner than the recommended mileage. You can reset this yourself by either finding out how in your owners manual or, for instance, you brought your vehicle into our shop to experience our stellar service, we’d reset the light for you. Often times when you begin to approach the service interval, (the typical service interval is 3000 miles) the light will stay on for 10 seconds when you first start your engine, indicating that you’re about 500 miles from reaching the mileage for the service interval. Once you reached or exceeded the mileage for the interval, it will usually start to flash or it will stay on continually.

The last dash light we’re going to cover today is the Electrical Fault Light. Depending on the vehicle, this same indicator can be totally different from car to car, but it usually looks like a battery. When you first start your vehicle, the light will come on indicating a test of the system and as long as the test goes well, the light will go off. BUT! If the system detects low voltage in either the battery or the alternator, the light will stay on, prompting you to get your car checked out.

Next time we’re going to cover the ABS light, the coolant light and the oil light.

In the meantime, if you have ANY of these lights come on, please call us at 989-7871 or even stop by 617 N. Barger St. and we’ll check it out.

Don’t forget to check out our website at www.all-autorepair.com.