Can spiders cause your car's "check engine" light to come on?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was driving my 2007 Forester to work the other day when the check engine light came on (it has about 15,000 miles on it). I brought it in to the dealer, and they checked it out. The computer said it was code P1443, Evaporation Control Solenoid Malfunction. They cleaned a spider web out of the charcoal canister hose. Does this sound right, or am I getting hosed? (It was covered by the warranty -- but I am suspicious that something else might actually be wrong with the vehicle and will reappear after the warranty runs out). What do you think? -- Mary

TOM: Believe it or not, Mary, this is said to be a pretty common problem. We've never seen it in our shop, but we've read about it. I guess gasoline is the Chanel No. 5 of the arachnid world.

RAY: We've seen a number of service bulletins over the years alerting us to the dreaded spider-web-in-the-fuel-line problem. In your case, there probably was a bunch of webby stuff in the fresh-air intake line to the evaporative emissions canister. That was preventing the fuel tank from breathing properly (fresh air has to enter the gas tank to fill up the space left by the used gasoline; otherwise, the tank will slowly implode). That set off your check engine light.

TOM: So I don't think the dealer is hiding anything, or trying to cover up some other problem. I'd guess that he told you exactly what was wrong, and he fixed it.

RAY: Of course, in order to prevent this from happening again, he'll want to sell you the specially made Subaru Bird of Prey to eat any future little "line blockers."

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