Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Check Engine Soon

Ever been driving around and saw that your 'Check Engine Soon' light is on? If you're anything like me, you see this and immediately panic. Surely there must be something wrong! Quick, I must let a professional look at my car and determine the issue!

Which is immediately what went through my mind.

So I did some quick Googling and determined the light could mean any of 10000 things. To find out which one might be the actual issue, there were a couple of things I could do: take it in to the shop, take it to an Autozone and have them use a code finder tool or do it myself.

The shop cost around $115 just to look at it and pull the code off because, as was explained to me, "That light could mean anything is wrong with four major systems of the car and we have to check each one." The UXer in me thought 'what a silly thing to do? to have one light to indicate any issue (from 1-10000)?'.

Autozone was next. It was free for them to pull the code off the car. I was fascinated to watch them plug in their device under the dash and presto changeo there was the code! Although when it was referenced in the computer, it was narrowed down to 4 broad topics.  Off to the next option.

Doing it myself seemed too daunting. It involved turning the key in the ignition a certain degree, pushing on the break in a sequence and then counting the blinks of the 'Check Engine Soon' light.  The code could have up to 4 numbers and each number could have up to 9 blinks to indicate it. I quickly determined that I didn't have CIA code breaker certification so I opted to pay the dealership to figure it out.

Half a day later, they called to tell me what was wrong with my car. Was something broken? Nope. Something torn? No.

The light had actually only indicated that a certain part was out of warranty. And luckily they didn't charge me to figure it out.

I'm still amazed that the designers of the car use one light to indicate so many different issues/problems. I know you can't possibly have one light for each issue on the car, but there's got to be a better way!

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