If you are anything like me, you’re a) super busy and b) super clueless about cars. What do you do if your car breaks down? How can you identify what’s wrong with it? If you get that dreaded engine notification flashing on your dashboard, don’t panic. Here’s what to do…
Engine faults come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you might realise your engine has a fault when the car grinds to a halt and there is no sign of intelligent life. In the case of a less serious fault, the only indicator might be a check engine warning light on the dash.
Modern vehicles have engine diagnostic systems that tell a mechanic which system has a problem. Issues are typically flagged by engine warning lights on the dashboard, usually a small engine diagram. Different lights indicate different things, some more serious than others. If your vehicle appears to have an engine fault, it can be very worrying. After all, an engine fault will likely lead to a big repair bill, and nobody wants that.
If the problem is not so serious that the car has physically broken down, check to see whether there is a warning light on the dashboard. An orange light is an alert, which tells you to have the car checked at your earliest convenience. A red warning light is more serious. This tells you to stop the car immediately.
Sometimes, engine warning lights come on because of a faulty sensor. This means there isn’t an actual problem, just a sensor falsely telling you that there is. However, unless you have a diagnostic machine handy, you won’t have any way of telling whether it is a false alarm or not. Always take your vehicle to the nearest repair shop if an engine warning light flashes up on the dashboard. If the light is orange, head there at your convenience. If the light is red, pull over at a safe spot immediately and call a breakdown service.
What Happens Next?
Engine warning lights are triggered by a sensor alerting the car’s onboard computer to a problem. Mechanics can diagnose the exact fault by plugging in a computer to the vehicle’s OBD, or onboard diagnostics port. It is a relatively simple process for a mechanic with the right diagnostic software to find out what the problem is, but for everyone else, an OBD device would be needed.
Using an OBD Scanner
Luckily, there are scanners available that anyone can use to diagnose an engine fault. For example, if your car’s engine management light comes on and the engine is misfiring, you can smell burning fuel, and there is a lot of smoke coming from the exhaust pipe, you could have an issue with your EVAP system. A Carly scanner lets a computer access a car’s diagnostic data. Plug one into your car’s OBD-II port. If you get a P0442 code, you can check the P0442 code definition, which tells you the EVAP system leaks. The cure may be something as simple as screwing the gas cap on a bit tighter. However, the leak could be more serious. It is OK to drive with an EVAP system leak, but you should take the car to a repair shop as soon as possible. Having a device like this could at least save you an unnecessary trip to a garage to tell you what’s wrong. You definitely can’t ignore engine faults; they rarely resolve themselves, and if left, you could end up with more serious issues.
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