Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Check Engine Light

My car's Check Engine Light has been on for days. This happens periodically and the first time it resulted in the standard reaction of "oh no my car is ready to burn up into a pile of cinder" and a slow painful trip to the mechanic. Roland... my filthy mechanic, who resembles a holocaust survivor but a survivor that knows his way around an engine, chuckled and said in his faux-southern drawl "you didn't tighten the gas cap."


Apparently, in Hondas and Toyotas the "Check Engine Light" goes off when the car is burning up and ready to explode, or if you fail to tighten the gas cap sufficiently. I think this might be some sort of Japanese engineering humor.

My internal Check Engine Light goes off every so often too. It is a nagging amber light of doom that sits inside my peripheral vision and tells me that my life is about to explode into a disaster of epic proportion... or that my zipper is down. It is the little light that cried wolf. At first you rush off to have it looked at... and they open you up and diagnose you with all sorts of physical and mental issues. Or worse yet... you skip the mechanic and research the problem on line yourself. That is a sure path to hell. Because literally every symptom is either intestinal gas or a brain tumor. Which only makes it harder to ignore the your Check Engine Light.

"It must be a brain tumor!" You panic and sweat and worry. And then you psych yourself up for the doctor who laughs at you and says... "gas!" and hands you some antacid.

The hardware problems are nothing compared to the software one... those are a real bitch. My heart and the carburetor are easy to diagnose. But my on-board computers and psyche. Well... that is more of an imprecise art. They are finicky and sometimes it is as simple as hitting the reset button. But sometimes only drugs will help.

So I drive on. Pointedly ignoring the light. Hoping that my zipper is down. Ignorance is, after all, bliss. And I'm all about following my bliss.


  1. Oh man, the dread that fills me when that light comes on!

    I've had the loose gas cap treatment, too. Good times!

  2. Had the check engine light 2 weeks ago. Cost me $1500.

    Stupid car!

  3. I've driven a honda for over 20 years - right now the suupaa cool odyssey - I drive with that light on for months because over the years I've learned just to see if I'm over due for an oil change and listen for any "problems". If not, then ignore.. I think the service people set it to go off at certain mileage levels just to keep you hopping.

  4. @Mona- I'd like to know what kind of sick sense of humor thinks up such things.

    @Happy- Shh... You are disturbing my bliss with talk of money.

    @Margo- You are suupaa cool. Do you think it is bad that when I took if for an oil change the guy came in and said... "Umm... nothing came out when we pulled the plug."

  5. Umm... my check engine light has been on in my car for 2+ years... that light is total bullshit. Any good mechanic will tell you that. :-)

  6. Sometimes only drugs will help is one my foundational personal beliefs. I'm pleased that we can share this sentiment. As for the car thing: how hard would it be to just have a "tighten your gas cap" light?

  7. @Lindsay... I don't worry as much about the car one anymore. But trusting Roland with my psyche seems a little... dangerous.

    @Cynthia... drugs... mmmm.

  8. My check engine light finally went off after 4 + years. Car runs like a dream. Never had a problem. Just put some duct tape over the light, or a nifty sticker.

  9. I'm picturing me wearing a sticker on my forehead for four years until my internal light goes out.

  10. The best part about the check engine light? If you take it to Advanced Auto, or Pep Boys - they'll hook it up and tell you why its on. THEN they tell you this "code" COULD mean: gas cap, fuel pump, hose leak, sugar in your tank, or something reasonable like you put diesel in last night when you were sleep pumping on Ambien. Really - they tell you nothing. It seems to me car mechanics should be more precise than all the "it may be this" or "its probably your piston".

  11. This is why I love my therapist. She can always see what shade of red or yellow or orange that light is glowing, and tell me what it means. Trouble is, I usually already knew it. You are so f'ing right about denial/ignorance. It's a beautiful thing.

  12. i'm sad i've not been reading your blogs recently because i could have used this one for a while now....

    my heart cried a little when i read your comment about wearing a sticker on your forehead until the internal light goes out.

    no need to ask myself why.
    i'm trying to pull off that sticker.

  13. @pc... this is known as "job security"

    @just ld... mechanics and therapists

    @megan... perhaps you just need some new spark plugs. and thank you for trying to remove my sticker.

  14. i think you're right... new plugs.
    or better booster cables.

    and maybe i should remove my own sticker while i'm at it.