Where’s the “Check Engine” App?

Friday’s “What the frak…?” moment (WTFM) is brought to you by………..

The Check Engine Light: It lights up without warning, sending one into a, “Holy frak, what is wrong with this vehicle?” tail spin. Or if you’re me, you can’t help but view it as The Car Who Cried Wolf, because it turns on whenever you fill your tank with gas and neglect to give the gas cap an extra click.

My husband gassed up the car several weeks ago.

He forgot the extra click of the fuel cap, and I had to stare at my check engine light until the tank was empty and I refueled.

After my extra click, the light turned off.

All was fine.

My husband drove from Texas to Iowa last weekend.

All was well on my tank of gas.

Then after he gassed up, the check engine light was back.

Like a cheesy horror movie monster, it just won't stop....

I commented on it’s reappearance when I ran some errands.

“Yes, I clicked the cap. I know I did. I swear I did.”

I didn’t believe him.

The shining light was my proof.

We drove to the Omaha Zoo on Tuesday (It was. Awe. Some. Post to come.). It consumed the rest of the gas he’d put in.

We filled up before leaving Omaha.

“Be sure you give the cap an extra click,” I told him.

He grunted and rolled his eyes and clicked the cap again.

The check engine light disappeared instantly and we drove back to Des Moines without so much as a flicker.

End of story.

So I thought.

When we started the car the next day, the check engine light was back.

What. The. Frak.

I don’t know what it means.

It could be a giant list of things.

Or the stupid gas cap being weird.

Why doesn’t the car come with some way to translate what’s going on?

Isn’t there an app for that?

To add insult to the matter, my engine began sputtering and struggling to start. Not overly so, just enough to make you go, “That doesn’t sound quite right.”

$100ish later, my van has a new battery.

The check engine light is still on.

We will be putting another 1000+ miles on the car over the next several days.

I hope it isn’t serious.

I’m still not convinced my husband didn’t do something weird. It worked just fine before he gassed it up.

Meanwhile I curse, because when the check engine light is on, the “eco” fuel mode – which gives us better gas mileage – also won’t kick on.

For 1000+ miles. In a minivan.

That sucks.

Send good vibes my way that the engine still runs. And the air conditioning. And the DVD player. Brakes might be good too.

I think we can survive the drive to Texas with those four things.

I’m not asking much, right?

What do you do when the check engine light turns on?

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About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos (www.writingwithchaos.com) sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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9 Responses to Where’s the “Check Engine” App?

  1. Annie says:

    The check engine light is always on in our green van. But it’s 10 years old with 160000 miles. I’m pretty sure the light means “get a new van” in that case. :)

  2. Sparky says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that my truck is a female whose “check engine” light means Vehicular-PMS. I haven’t quite figured out the cycle, though…
    Also, AutoZone, O’Reilly, and other parts stores like these usually have a free diagnostic test. Meaning they have a little machine with the Check Engine App!!! They usually plug it in, give me a smirk, wiggle a wire…and off I go with no more evil little icon lit up on my dash! :)
    Good luck and have a great trip to Texas…bring sunscreen…it’s frakkin’ HOT down here!!
    ~Tori

  3. Phyllis says:

    I HATE the check engine light! It is so worthless, and so worrisome!

    The last time it came on, I went to Auto Zone after it was still on for 4 days. They will do a free, no-strings diagnostic that takes less than 5 minutes. In my case, it was some valve — forget the name — that the guy says gets gunked up sometimes. He said it might ungunk itself. He said there was no harm in continuing to drive that way, and that the only possible bad side-effect would be reduced gas mileage, and that it might not even happen.

    Two days later, the light went off. Has stayed off.

    Next time the damned light comes on, I’m off to Auto Zone again.

  4. CG says:

    It has been off since I replaced the battery. If it stays that way for the rest of the trip, I will consider the matter closed. Otherwise, I know Frys sells the adapter to go with the iPod app.

  5. It hasn’t happened in my car yet. It happened with Ba.D.’s car when we drove to the Bay Area while I was pregnant. We didn’t have the time/money to attend to it then, so we figured we’d pray/get it checked once back in Los Angeles. Of course, after hours spent fretting while driving around the Bay Area, the light went off about an hour into our drive home. It’s great we had that peace of mind then, but . . . what about the two days preceding? Crossing my fingers for you!

  6. The Check Engine light is completely worthy of a “What the Frack” I’m convinced that our cars are smarter than we are and they toy with us with that stupid light!

  7. I hate all the bells and whistles and lights in new cars. With me, it’s my stupid tire pressure light. Do not get me started. Let’s just say there is always enough air. Grrrrrr.

    Do you have AAA? Maybe time to invest. ;-)

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