This isn’t your traditional computer-related article, but it does have to do with a computer you use every day – the one in your car.
Computers that handle engine stuff have been in cars for a good long while, although generally speaking the ones that can be easily connected to are vehicles made from 1996 to present; this is because of the advent of the OBD connector (usually seen as a small port under the steering column).
If you wanted to, you could buy an OBD connector for your laptop, the appropriate scanning software, and perform diagnostics on your car yourself – but that’s assuming you could even make sense of it all.
More often than not what most people want to do IS GET RID OF THAT STUPID “CHECK ENGINE” LIGHT. One day you start the car, and the light comes on. What does it mean? You don’t know.
Or do you?
The manual for your car (yes you can read it for things other than finding out where fuses go) will in fact tell you what that light means. Usually it’s the case on a gasoline-powered car that if this light comes on, it has something to do with emissions control.
If your car is running fine, isn’t sputtering, stalling, smoking or having any other obvious issues, the most likely reason the trouble light is illuminated is because the exhaust on your car is getting old (namely the catalytic converter and/or muffler), or your gas cap has worn out and is getting loose.
If you go to an auto shop to get this light cleared, they will charge you for it and probably try to upsell you a whole bunch of crap for your car you don’t need.
When you go to the counter at one of the stores mentioned above, tell them you need a check-engine light cleared. They’ll ask if you officially give them permission to do so, you say yes. The guy then grabs a handheld computer, goes out to your car, plugs in, punches a few buttons, bleep-bloop-boop-bleep, done. Check engine light is now gone.
While you’re there, buy a new gas cap, as it’s probably what caused that light to come on in the first place.
EDIT with additional note: Before having the light cleared, ask the tech who clears the code what the computer says the problem is first. He’ll tell you at no charge. While the vast majority of the time the check-engine light is for a loose gas cap, it can also be from anything from a bad thermostat to a bad sensor, etc. What the light represents varies wildly from model to model of automobile, but more often than not it is an emissions issue. Again, to be sure, ask the tech what the computer states the problem is before having it cleared.
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