Realistically, the day will come when you’ll have a car problem.  An engine problem is frustrating, but you can take steps to reduce the frequency or seriousness when one happens.  The simple answer is to use good quality oil, transmission fluid, and parts in your vehicle.  Your engine and transmission are the most expensive components to repair or replace.   Sooner or later, you’ll inevitably experience one of those dreaded dashboard warning lights.  What is the best way to handle it?  What preventive actions should you take before you ever get to this point?

“Uh-oh.  My dashboard says I have an engine problem!”

OBD ScannerWith all of the computerized tech aboard today’s vehicles, manufacturer could do better than generic warning lights and tones.  When your check engine light comes on, don’t panic.  Set your fears to rest by arming yourself with a little information.  A simple scan tool is the answer.

A scan tool plugs into the OBD (On-board Diagnostic) Port on your car, usually found below the steering wheel.  Automotive scan tools are commonly used by professional mechanics to diagnose a vehicle’s problems.  The tool provides error codes which are stored in your car’s computer.

You should own an OBD Scan Tool yourself.  They’re inexpensive, often costing less than $50.  Without a scan tool to narrow down your vehicle’s engine problem, you’re at the mercy of the mechanic.  Hopefully they’ll tell you the cause behind the random warning lights on your dashboard.  However, if you take your car to an unscrupulous mechanic, even minor problems can cost a fortune.

Consulting the manual to diagnose the cause of dashboard warning lights is useless.  The range of potential problems is too varied:

  • It could indicate a simple malfunctioning O2 sensor (typically a $9-$30 repair cost)
  • It may be a fault in the transmission (expensive)
  • a bad ECM or BCM computer (which may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars)
  • or a litany of other problems.

What Could It Be?

Car troubleDue to the number of possibilities, your owner’s manual typically just instructs you to take the vehicle to the dealer for a service call.

Without having your own scan tool, you may end up paying $200 (or more) for a mechanic simply to hook your car up to their diagnostic computers.  The unnecessary time and expense can cause undue stress for something that you may have been able to resolve yourself (with your $30 scanning tool).

Most scan tools not only diagnose car problems, but allow you to erase or reset the warning codes after you have repaired the issue.  Some scan tools just provide the error codes which you will need to lookup online to decipher, while others will provide you with an actual description of the problem.  Either type will allow you to diagnose your car yourself in a matter of two to three minutes.

Scanning tools are small, so we recommend keeping the tool in your car’s glove box. That way, if you ever encounter a problem on the road, you may be able to identify it as “minor” and continue your travels.  If it’s more serious, you may need a towing service.

There’s a Funny Noise, but No Warning Lights on the Dashboard

An engine problem may not appear on your dashboard lights at all.  For example, if you hear a knocking or pinging sound, it could be caused by using the wrong kind of gas or oil.  Pre-ignition and detonation are two symptoms of the wrong type of fuel being used.  You may need a higher octane, in which case you can solve the problem yourself with a good quality octane booster fuel additive.

A rhythmic “ticking” sound from under the hood, on the other hand, might indicate a low oil situation.  You might not see a “low oil pressure” indicator light on your dashboard, but your cylinders may be taking a beating.  Using a high-quality synthetic oil provides a layer of protection until you can check the oil and ensure the proper level.

Learn more about how the oils and lubricants you use make a difference in your vehicle’s performance and longevity.  At LifeTimeOil we want to help you keep your motorsport’s engine at tip-top performance, give us a call at (612) 819-8835 or browse AMSOIL’s online store to order the top-performing synthetic oil in North Branch, Minnesota.