"The C.E.L., I was told it's nothing, don’t worry about it!" Hi, I have heard this from customers countless times over the years. It seems as though either the internet is telling people, "don’t worry about it", or that someone in the automotive field is telling customers that, which I find hard to believe. Or perhaps some people are choosing this line of thinking all on their own.
One of the reasons for this may be a misunderstanding of what the C.E.L, SERVICE ENGINE SOON, OR PICTURE OF AN ENGINE, light is for. When talking to customers about that light being on, the first thing they say is this is going to cost a lot of money! Well, maybe not. Through the years, there have been many times where these repairs turned out to be some of the least expensive repairs I've made. With that being said, there are some failed emissions components that are very expensive. This is what the C.E.L. is all about: the emissions of your vehicle that impact the environment.
Some of these failures do not affect the running of your vehicle, which may lead people to believe it’s nothing to worry about. An example of this is the evaporative emissions (evap) system. If you've ever put gas in an older car on a hot summer day, you experienced these emissions when the gas cap was removed. You may have observed a 'whoosh' of fuel vapor, and, if you stood back, a visible wave of vapors escaping. That is what the evap system does, it prevents fuel vapors from being released. Other systems that are emissions related have to do with the engine burning fuel in the most efficient way possible. To be efficient, the engine needs the correct amount of air to be combined with the fuel to achieve the lowest amount of harmful exhaust emissions. This balance is very important, and auto manufacturers have worked on achieving and maintaining it in their vehicles for many years. When the air to fuel ratio is out of balance, most of the time the car will run poorly, and this can even lead to a damaged catalytic converter, which is an expensive part to replace!
With all of that being said, I understand that some
customers have a car that they drive very little and want to keep costs down, and the car seems to run fine. To those car owners, I would make one recommendation: have the system scanned at least once a year to make sure there are no other issues with teh vehicle (When the C.E.L. is already on, you won't get a second warning!!). This way you won't run into a situation where there is more than one trouble code which may cost you a lot more to fix.
In closing, the Check Engine Light does mean something, and its importance is up to the you, the vehicle owner, as your needs and priorities may vary. However, know that if you ignore it, your car may be a Monday car, blurry eyed and not at its best.
Thanks, Joe @ ASM Auto