Why is my check engine light on?

My check engine light is flashing
My first phone call this morning went like this. I see smoke, I smell smoke, my car is running poorly, and it has low power. Oh and the check engine light is flashing. My response? Pull over immediately and turn your engine off. The light is telling you a condition exists that can damage your vehicle. It’s a time-is-of-the-essence issue. You can cause consequential damage by ignoring it.

Don’t panic
When your check engine light comes on, don’t panic. The light can come on for a thousand different reasons. But, your internal computer has detected something that isn’t right. It can be as simple as a sensor that has gone bad. Or as complicated as a malfunctioning module or data link problem.

What’s wrong?
Most people just want to know what’s wrong. Here’s the short answer. It’s never the same thing. If you’ve taken good care of your vehicle, and followed a regular maintenance schedule, it’s probably something simple.

The accumulation of vehicle maintenance costs
I know you don’t want to hear this. We’ve all been there. Vehicles have a monthly maintenance cost. If you fail to maintain your vehicle, the cost doesn’t disappear, it just accumulates. The check engine light is your warning that your vehicle needs immediate mechanical attention. Pay attention to instrumentation, smell, sound, and performance irregularities. Running at high temperatures, smoke, vibrations and grinding noises are all danger signs.

NCDOT North Carolina Annual Safety Inspection
Another regular client calls about his Jeep Wrangler. The check engine light goes off and on since he had a catalytic converter replaced. The vehicle is running smoothly but his NCDOT North Carolina Annual Safety Inspection is due. We hooked him up. Ran our magical computer. Beep boop, it spits out a sensor error, bank 2. The same cat he just replaced. Lucky for him, after verifying the engine was in good health, his Jeep only needed a new sensor. We repaired his rig. The check engine light was reset and off he went for a successful renewal.

Wait, I can fail my annual inspection?
When your check engine light is reset after a repair, so are certain monitors. Driving for a bit before the state mandated test is critical to passing the OBD section of your annual inspection. This way your on-board computer has time to verify everything is operating properly since the faults were last cleared. Now here’s something most people don’t know. During your NC inspection, as long as the engine light is off, a vehicle is allowed an OBD monitor that hasn’t fully reset yet (or two for an older vehicle), and still pass.

Layers like an onion
Back to those accumulated maintenance costs. Problems arise under 3 basic layers. Symptom, consequential damage, and root cause. The symptom may be that your engine is running rough. The cause behind that may be that your cylinder is damaged. And the root cause may be that your turbo charger went out causing the cylinder damage. I have to peel that onion and figure out what’s going on.

Building relationships
I pride myself on being completely honest and transparent with my customers. I’m going to give you detailed information about your mechanical problems and my professional recommendation for how I would repair it. I will take care of you like I care for my own family. I want you to be safe and I want your transportation to be reliable.

Call us today. We come right to the house.

Zachary Bernet
Zachary Bernet

ASE Master Technician
ASE Advanced Level Specialist
Master & Diamond Certified Mechanic

(916) 256-5962


65 Vintage Court
Clayton, NC 27520
United States

[email protected]