The "go to your mechanic and have the engine checked" light.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

My Chariot is a 1985 Chevy Celebrity wagon. For the last month or so, once in about every 10 starts, my "check engine" light comes on and stays on. Please tell me what it is I'm supposed to "check." Is there a priority list of things to look for? The car seems to be running fine.

TOM: The "check engine" light is mostly for drivers in high-crime areas. When it comes on, you're supposed to get out of the car, look under the hood, and see if your engine is still there. If it is, you can keep driving.

RAY: All kidding aside, Andy, the "check engine" light means that the car's computer has detected a malfunction somewhere. And it's not something you can diagnose yourself.

TOM: The computer actually stores the information in the form of a code (kind of like in a James Bondo movie). When you see the "check engine" light come on, you're supposed to take the car to your mechanic, who can tap into the computer, read the code, and find out what's wrong.

RAY: So the "check engine" light really is misleading. It should be a "go to your mechanic and have the engine checked" light.

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