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AUTONET TV

How Your Check Engine Light Works

Posted November 24, 2011 12:00 PM



Have you ever had an experience like this in Bushwood, Maryland? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your Check Engine light starts flashing!

You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stops flashing, but stays on. By the next day, the light is off.

You wonder; "What was going on?" Well, it's actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.

Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn't be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something's wrong. Whatever's wrong could cause some serious engine damage.

Warning, warning! It flashes the Check Engine light to alert you to take immediate action.

It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I'm still concerned, I'll keep this light on for now.

Then the Check Engine light goes off in a day or two.

The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it's gone now. The danger is past, I'll turn that light off.

Now a flashing Check Engine light is serious. You need to get it into Hill's Auto Repair, Inc. as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing you can wait a few days, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?

Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air-to- fuel mix, spark advance and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.

The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the Check Engine warning.

The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can't compensate for the problem, the Check Engine light stays on.

The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what's wrong.

Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can't really tell him why, because there could be any number of causes.

Let's say you're feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

You know your symptom – a fever – but you don't know what's causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?

You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.

There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.

There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer's computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.

A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy online or that the auto parts store uses, doesn't have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Bushwood, Maryland, service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.

The second problem is that once you've got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.

So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor — which is not cheap — and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.

How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at Hill's Auto Repair, Inc.. Give us a call and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.

Hill's Auto Repair, Inc.
22829 colton point rd
Bushwood, Maryland 20618
301-769-2400



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What People Say About Us

  • reviewicon
    , 02/17/2020

    Bought new wheels for my wife Brenda. Thanks for installing them on Valentine's Day and making her happy! Thanks guys!

  • reviewicon
    , 02/17/2020

    Very friendly. Treat you like they've known you for years .

  • reviewicon
    , 02/14/2020

    Been going to Hill's Automotive for year's. They treat you with respect and dont try to screw you over like other shops. They have great prices. I always recommend them to my friends and family's.

  • reviewicon
    , 02/12/2020

    Fantastic service, very thorough vehicle inspections, not adverse to installing aftermarket upgrades, and working on my (so far) mildly modified vehicle, and willing to work with you on your performance goal. So far from the only shop that check the tire pressure before an alignment that i've found.

  • reviewicon
    , 02/11/2020

    Hill's consistently gives great service! Always friendly and attentive to our car maintenance and repair needs. Never trying to sell you what you don't need or want. Quick service turn-around, no surprises on the bill, always upfront on recommendations and options. Love you guys!

  • reviewicon
    , 02/09/2020

    Been dealing with Jerry Hill for 15 years+. Have never been dissatisfied with his work. His prices seem to conform to industry standards and the shop knowledge has alway been good. I recommend them with confidence.

  • reviewicon
    , 02/08/2020

    Great people, they have great mechanics and your vehicle will be done right before it leaves the shop.

  • reviewicon
    , 01/26/2020

    Want a Auto Repair Shop that does the job RIGHT the first time? Hills Auto Repair is what you need. Honest mechanics and let me say that is HARD to find. Been going there since 2000 and have always received excellent service. You have a car issue then I highly recommend you take you vehicles here. Can't say enough about how great this business is. Jerry Hill the owner operates a truly outstanding business and has some great mechanics working for him. Giving John and Luke a shout out for doing an excellent job maintaining my vehicles. Trust me they're the best Auto Repair you will ever need. Give them a chance next time you have car issues. You won't be sorry.

  • reviewicon
    , 01/16/2020

    Excellent service! Fixed it right the first time!!!

  • reviewicon
    , 01/08/2020

    Very professional operation. I have been dealing with them for many years.

  • reviewicon
    , 01/06/2020

    Fabulous, as always. Hill's Auto crew is professional, courteous, and invariably honest. What a treasure!

  • reviewicon
    , 12/29/2019

    Hills' staff members are great. They are courteous and helpful. John took time to talk with me after I had my oil changed and expressed some concerns while explaining the action needed to help.

  • reviewicon
    , 12/15/2019

    For over 15 years Hill's has been servicing my family's vehicles. During this time we have never had an issue and only experienced excellent service and professionalism. Also been great to see them invest back into the business.

  • reviewicon
    , 12/02/2019

    Great place. Super helpful.

  • reviewicon
    , 11/27/2019

    Good honest, and trustworthy people.

  • reviewicon
    , 11/26/2019

    Great place. Super helpful.

  • Honest, EXCELLENT work
    reviewicon
    , 11/22/2019

    This is a great shop with great people. Honest, EXCELLENT work at a fair price. I highly recommend taking your vehicles there for service.

  • Honest, EXCELLENT work
    reviewicon
    , 07/15/2015

    Good people. Enjoy doing business with them. I would recommend them.

  • reviewicon
    , 01/19/2017

    I absolutely without hesitation TRUST HILLS AUTO with not only my personal vehicles but also my Beast of a school bus.. I know when I pull in with my Beast that I will come away fixed with such peace of mind.. THANK YOU HILLS AUTO FOR KEEPING MY BEAST BUS AND PERSONAL VEHICLES SAFELY ON THE ROAD!

  • reviewicon
    , 08/14/2017

    Love this place. I take both of my cars there. The staff treats me great,and they explain what needs to be done!! I recommend them to anyone!!

  • Peace of Mind
    reviewicon
    , 11/21/2019

    I absolutely without hesitation TRUST HILLS AUTO with not only my personal.vehicles but also my Beast of a school bus.. I know when I pull in with my Beast that I will come away fixed with such peace of mind.. THANK YOU HILLS AUTO FOR KEEPING MY BEAST BUS AND PERSONAL VEHICLES SAFELY ON THE ROAD..

  • Peace of Mind
    reviewicon
    , 11/21/2019

    Good people. Enjoy doing business with them. I would recommend them.

  • Recommend to Anyone
    reviewicon
    , 11/19/2019

    Love this place. I take both of my cars there. The staff treats me great,and they explain what needs to be done!! I recommend them to anyone!!

  • Recommend to Anyone
    reviewicon
    , 11/17/2019

    I started going to Hill's Auto Repair just after they opened the business. I have not gone to any other automotive shop since that time. I find each of the employees knowledgeable and friendly. All of their work is first class and completed in the time frame they said it would be. I fave full faith and confidence in all of their work. I taught engine repair when I was in the U.S. Army, so I am aware of what problems may exist and what is required to fix them. I have never been told I needed something to be fixed or repaired that I did not really need. All of their advice is sound and on target. I recommend Hill's to anybody and everybody because they can be trusted to do the job right and never advising that a repair or replacement is needed if it really is not.

  • , 11/13/2019

    I've been going to Hill's Auto Repair for any auto repair's after the warranty went out on any of my cars over the year's since they first opened up for business and have always been completely satisfied with the repair's. The work has always been done as quickly as possible and I've never had to return to Hill's to re-fix any work they did on my cars. It's also about the only auto repair shop I trust telling me what's wrong and how much it's going to cost to fix my car, being a female it's easy to be taken advantage of by repair shops, that would never happen at Hills Auto Repair. I have family members that work on cars that I've double checked with at times on what Hills wanted to do to fix my car and they've always agreed with the work and cost at Hill's.

  • , 11/12/2019

    Great local shop, with wonderful people! If you want it fixed, and fixed right, they will get you straight. They are fast, reasonable, and have great communication. I am very glad I found them.

  • Support Small Business
    reviewicon
    , 11/09/2019

    Only auto repair shop I trust. Support small local businesses!

  • Support Small Business
    reviewicon
    , 11/07/2019

    Great place for getting your car fixed. They know what they're doing.

  • Awesome Business
    reviewicon
    , 11/04/2019

    Awesome business, they did a great job!

  • Awesome Business
    reviewicon
    , 02/17/2020

    Bought new wheels for my wife Brenda. Thanks for installing them on Valentine's Day and making her happy! Thanks guys!

Call us for service: 301-769-2400

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