The problem with one light to cover so many things that can be wrong with a car is that you don’t know how bad it is, or even what you’re being told. A couple of months ago, our family van started having a problem that the mechanic assured me doesn’t matter but that would take a long time to track down and fix. But since it causes the ‘Check Engine’ light to come on, it makes the light useless since I won’t know if it’s just that same error or something new (and more urgent!).
Happily, I’ve found the answer. I bought a small device from Amazon, the iSaddle Bluetooth Mini.
It only cost $15. It plugs into a port that is below the steering wheel of any car made for the US market since the mid-1990s. I didn’t even know the port was there! Anyway, you use it in concert with an app on a Bluetooth friendly smart phone. I’m using a Windows Phone (Lumia 928) with the app called OBD Auto Doctor, but there’s also a great one for Android called Torque. Plug it in, and turn on the power to your car (but without starting the engine). OBD Auto Doctor connected to it and quickly pulled a list of the codes the car’s computer was showing. I just had it email me the list and then pressed the little engine light icon which cleared the errors. In the future if the light comes on, I can just read it again and see if there’s anything new I should ask the mechanic about.
So my check engine light will actually mean something at least!