Check the Engine Light for Free

Check the Engine Light for Free

Retail automotive shops and parts companies have been offering the free check engine light inspection for many years. Motorists will find this article helpful in understanding what they’ll get and what to expect from this generous offer to pull the codes from the vehicle’s main computer when the check engine light is on. Discover why the businesses are happy to perform the service at no charge and what this amber warning light means when it’s on.

Check Engine Lights

This light is called an MIL (malfunction indicator lamp) in the automotive service industry. It’s the perfect name because when the light comes on its indicating a malfunction in the vehicles computer-controlled power train or emissions system. This can be a serious condition or a nuisance code that has little too no effect on vehicle operation. Identifying which category the failure falls into is important.

On cars and trucks from 1996 to present day the light will stay on until the codes are erased, even If you find and repair the problem. A scan tool interfaces with the on board diagnostic system and is capable of reading and erasing these trouble codes. When the shop offers to check an engine light free, they will be using one of these scanners. What some car owners don’t understand is they can purchase a simple code reader for under $20. In addition it’s possible to reset the check engine light without a scanner.

Why is This Service Free

It’s not surprising the offer to check the lamp for free is to get new people into the store. The hope is to convert someone who obviously has an automotive problem into a paying customer. This is not to say the shop has evil intentions or lied by offering to pull the codes. They did pay to run advertisements and have the right to see a return on their investment. Just because the services are no charge doesn’t mean it provides no value. When the engine light comes on the first step in diagnosis is to read the code in an effort to isolate the malfunction to a particular system or part. Repair centers that advertise to scan the vehicle for free will most often honor their promise. People taking advantage of the service should write the code down for future diagnosis.

What the Free Scan Includes

The service center, parts store or transmission shop advertised they would scan your vehicle for free and most often will fulfill that part of the agreement. What many drivers don’t understand is that clearing the codes or turning off the light was not part of that arrangement. In fact in some states it’s against the law for an auto parts store or shop to clear codes from the computer’s memory.The business offering the free service will not diagnose a fault code. They will simply read it and supply it to the driver. In the case of an auto parts store they’ll often refer customers to a local repair center they have a deal with. Sending repair shops that purchase parts from them is advantageous for both parties. In the case of the transmission shop or repair center the hope is to secure the diagnosis and repair of this particular failure.

You Get What You Paid For

When an automobile owner has a check engine light situation to deal with they might remember the commercial they heard on the radio about free services. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing this avenue of diagnosis as long as they understand what they’ll get. The answer is very little. The auto parts stores are in the business of selling parts or referring customers to auto shops they supply parts to. Auto repair facilities invest in expensive tools and training to fix these types of problems and use the lure of a free service to attract new customers.

Drivers should educate themselves about the check engine light and common codes responsible for triggering the warning lamp. Car owners should also consider purchasing their own code reader. This way they can read the code and erase it to reset the light on their own. The first step in the diagnostic tree chart for many trouble codes is to reset the system and drive the car to see if the malfunction returns. Simple code readers are available for around $20 and will actually provide much more value than the free service offered in those radio and TV commercials.

Tagged with: , ,