Check engine light: Doesn’t have to be scary

Check engine light: Doesn’t have to be scary

| By: Miguel Ramirez, Christian Brothers Automotive Miramesa

The check engine light also called a Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL), is one of the ways the computer system in your vehicle inform you that there is a problem with one of the components within a subsystem. Nowadays, vehicles are designed to have many computers and sensors that constantly monitor the operation of the vehicle. Manufacturers do this to improve performance, gas mileage, or safety ratings. When something is wrong, the computer will trigger the check engine light and the recommendation is to bring the vehicle to a mechanic you can trust, like Christian Brothers Automotive Miramesa.

Many times, our guests ask us about the difference between going to a parts vendor to get the codes read out of the vehicle’s computer versus the testing and inspecting process we can do at our store. When you go to the parts house and they read codes, they normally come with a printed ticket showing between 5 to 15 parts that belong to that system any of which could be the potential reason for the check engine light.  Of course, they are in the parts business so they would like you to do trial and error and replace one part at the time and see which one was responsible for the light. Trial and error can get very expensive very quickly.

What we do at our store with our ASE-certified technicians is to read the code with the same scanners and tools a dealership would utilize as an initial step. Once we identify the system involved, we test every single part in that system to determine which part needs to be replaced, if any, many times a simple vacuum leak can cause a check engine light to go off. During the testing and inspecting process, this can be fixed at no additional cost to the customer.

Transparency is a big thing for us at Christian Brothers Automotive Miramesa and that is why the test and diagnosis cost is separate from the repair. With the testing and inspection cost you are covering the cost of the technician looking into your vehicle the same way pay for a visit when going to the doctor. We want to walk the talk when it comes to the name we have in our building and behave Christ-like every time we interact with a guest.

During this process we will guide you, inform you and explain with detail, photos and videos about the situation with your vehicle so you can take the decision on how to proceed.

I remember when a first time guest that now has been a regular for many years. He came to ask for an estimate to replace his alternator, we asked him several questions about why he thought he needed an alternator, since he has a BMW it can get expensive. He stated he went to a big auto parts store and got one of those tickets where according to the code either the battery or the alternator needed to be replaced. The parts store tested the battery and said it was good so the only option was to replace the alternator. I explained our recommendation was to test and inspect the electrical system and that for $49.00 the technician will work on his car to find the reason of the low charge condition, especially because some of the new alternators are controlled by the main computer of the engine. He reluctantly accepted even though he was sure it was the alternator, which would have run upwards of $750. Well during the testing the technician found that the terminal where the battery cable connects to the alternation was lose, creating additional resistance in the system and the computer shutting down the alternator to avoid further damage, the technician tightened the cable to the terminal, tested the charging system again, tested for any electrical draw and certified that everything was fine.

We called our guest and informed him that we didn’t have to replace the alternator and that the repair was part of the testing and inspecting so it would not be $750 but only $49. He was thrilled and happy and became a customer for life.

The most important job we have is to make sure you have a safe and reliable vehicle. At Christian Brothers Automotive Miramesa we aim to exceed your expectations every visit. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions.

Your friends at Christian Brothers Automotive Miramesa

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