Updated October 11th, 2016

Perhaps you've had the experience before where you're driving down the road, and all of a sudden your "Check Engine" light comes on. This can elicit all kinds of nerve-wracking feelings, because let's face it--the phrase "Check Engine" is a little vague for those of us who are not car experts. What exactly does it mean, and how can you find out what needs to be done to turn that light back off?

The "Check Engine" light is part of a basic alert system in your vehicle that lets you know when something is amiss under the hood. The specific problem can vary greatly, but the good news is that there is a simple way to pinpoint the issue. You can take your car to a local auto repair Falls Church shop and have one of the technicians plug a scanning device into your vehicle's on-board diagnostic (OBD) system to find out exactly what is going on. The scanning tool will generate a code that the technician can use to help identify the problem, but many vehicle owners make the mistake of thinking that the code itself equals the diagnosis; this is actually not the case. The code simply lets the technician know what is currently wrong with the vehicle, but it does not list a possible cause or source of the problem; that job is left up to the technician to find out.

Think about it: If you walked into the doctor's office and said that you had stomach pain, would it be a good idea for the doctor to give you a quick diagnosis and prescription without even finding out what might be causing the pain? Any doctor worth his/her salt would run some tests or at least perform some kind of physical exam in order to gather enough information to form a reasonably solid opinion before offering a diagnosis. The same concept holds true when it comes to diagnosing problems with your vehicle; the diagnostics code may tell the technician what "symptoms" the vehicle is experiencing, but it takes a thorough examination to arrive at an accurate diagnosis in terms of what may be the actual source of the problem.

After the code is generated, the technician can begin to conduct a series of inspections in order to pinpoint the issue. You could be dealing with a faulty wire, a blown fuse, a broken sensor, or some other malfunction that is causing the OBD to generate a code. Once you have had your engine professionally examined by a Virginia vehicle diagnostics specialist, you will be thoroughly informed as to what type of work will need to be done on your vehicle. From there, you can get the needed repairs done, get that "Check Engine" light turned back off, and get on with your life.

Hogan & Sons can efficiently check all components of your vehicle as part of a vehicle tune-up. Visit our website at Hogan & Sons Tire and Auto has 8 locations throughout the Northern Virginia area to serve you including our Auto Repair Fairfax, Auto Repair Falls Church, Auto Repair Leesburg, Auto Repair Purcellville, Auto Repair Sterling, Auto Repair South Riding, Auto Repair Herndon, and Auto Repair Winchester locations.

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*Always check your owner’s manual for your vehicle model’s specific instructions before attempting any type of repair.