It's usually a good idea to make the repairs that cause your "Check Engine Light" to come on.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was traveling along the highway in my 1994 Pontiac Transport. Suddenly,
the "Service Engine Soon" light came on. I drove about 10 minutes to the
next exit, turned off the engine and waited. After a while, I turned the
engine back on and the light had gone off. Great! But next time I drove on
the highway, the same thing happened. I took it to Pontiac and they say I
need a new EGR valve for $250 plus another $200 labor. That sounded like a
lot for a part I never heard of. So I looked it up on your web site
( and found out what it is! Now the question is, do I have
to fix it? I've been driving for weeks now with the light coming on. --

TOM: Michael, I can tell from your letter that you're a complete and
unmitigated cheapskate.

RAY: My brother doesn't mean that in a bad way, Michael. It's just that one
cheapskate is always quick to recognize a soul mate.

TOM: Right. And even though I support you in your frugality in general,
Michael, I think you should definitely spend the money and fix this
problem. After all, the light says "Service Engine Soon." It doesn't say
"Ignore This Light" or "Don't Fix Anything, Mikey," does it?

RAY: The EGR valve, for those of you without internet access, is the
Exhaust Gas Recirculation valve. It takes a small amount of exhaust gas,
and feeds it back into the cylinders in order to cool the fuel/air mixture.
Cooling the mixture helps reduce engine pinging and cuts down on the
engine's nitrous oxide emissions.

TOM: So by not fixing it, Michael, you're poisoning the rest of us.

RAY: Plus, you may be disturbing the global economic balance. How? Well, if
you don't give the guy at Pontiac $450 to fix this, he won't go out and buy
expensive presents for his kids' birthdays. Then the toy store will cut
back its inventory, the U.S. trade deficit will balloon, and the currencies
in various Asian countries like Thailand and South Korea may struggle and
collapse. You wouldn't want that on your shoulders, would you now, Michael?

RAY: Hey, did you hear that our pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your
Car Without Even Knowing It," is a million seller!

TOM: That's not what I said, you knucklehead. I said I had a MILLION of
them in the CELLAR!

RAY:Oh. Well, it still has lots of good information on how to make your car
last forever.

TOM: Order your copy of "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even
Knowing It" by sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed No.10
envelope to Ruin No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One