Tool_maker, we're inclined to use your rule. But since the car has 190,000 miles on it, there's a reasonable possibility that something actually is wrong with the engine. That's why we're contemplating spending more than $0.00.
rickgtoc, thanks for your detailed feedback. We've thought of going into the local chain store to get the code(s) read, but once you turn the engine off a time or two, the codes disappear. Your suggestions of how to DIY capturing them look intriguing. Otherwise, we have to be already at the store to catch it when it serendipitously happens. Since we're about 30 minutes away from the closest of one of those stores (we *live* in South Nowhere), this presents some logistical problems.
It started to run rough, and not having time to look for the problem, I had my wife take it into the Nissan dealer to have it fixed.
The technician told her it had a bad injector, and needed to replace it, and to do it right, he wanted to replace all of the injectors at a price of $600 plus labor!
I told her no, and to bring the car back.
I played with the car for about a 1/2 hour and found that the only problem was a bad connection on the injector, sprayed contact cleaner on all injector plugs, wiggled and replaceed them and the car ran fine from then on!
It pays to know and analyze instead of letting an amateur do it, as I called the Nissan dealer back and talked to the service manager and told him what I found.
I have not taken any of my cars back to a dealer since.
Ann: your story almost duplicates our experience with my wife's 96 Blazer. A "Service Engine" light comes and goes, sometimes for weeks at a time. I have had it in numerous garages with no change, so have adopted this rule. If the oil pressure is where it belongs and the temperature gauge is okay, forget it. So far that has worked and it is free.
If the Honda is not too old, it has an OBD II connector under the dash near the steering wheel (some '94 &'95 cars,all '96 and later). Big chain parts stores in my area will read those codes for free using their code reader, which may or may not help you, given the intermittent nature of the trouble light. If it doesn't show up on the parts store's reader, you could buy a bluetooth enabled dongle to read those codes and transmit them to a smart phone using a free or low cost app. Then you could leave the dongle attached and run the monitoring app while operating the car and see what codes, if any, the car's computer posts when the Check Engine light comes on. It's not a cure-all, since the diagnostic codes are sometimes misleading or point to something that's a long way from root cause, but it's an inexpensive thing to try. And you can use the app to reset the diagnostic codes once you have effected a repair. I bought a dongle for about $20 online, and I'm using the free version of an Android app to translate the signals. In addition to diagnostic codes, the app generates all kinds of related stats, incluing RPM, fuel economy, speed, acceleration (using the phone's accelerometer, I believe). But safety first -- let someone else drive while you look at all the goodies the phone spits out.
I originally took my Tacoma to a parts store and had them use their code reader when my check engine light came on -- O2 sensor. I bought the dongle to reset the codes after I replaced the O2 sensor, and to let me read the diagnostic codes should the light come on when I'm on the road in South Nowhere out of range of an open mechanic or parts store. I just put the dongle in a bag behind the seat to have it available when needed.
I love it when a little enginuity and hard work save a lot of money. I just wish I was a little better at that sort of thing and had the patience to do it. Quite often I fall into that trap of thinking it's just easier to pay and have someone else do it.
In 2004, we had a need for a minivan. Looking at the local used car lots, we found a 99 Toyota Sienna at a fantastic price. The vehicle was old, but it was low in mileage. To be safe, we checked the Carfax on the vehicle, and it showed no issues. We also ran a google search for the 99 Sienna and found that a significant amount of that model year had problems with oil sludge buildup and catastrophic engine failure associated with no oil flow. With that knowledge, we knew why the deal was too good to be true. The dealer was most likely sitting on the vehicle for a while and needed to move it. We passed and bought a Ford instead. 125k miles later, we bought a brand new Sienna that had no sludge related issues reported.
Tim. I couldn't agree more. The real power of the Internet is the shared collective knowledge base of the civilized world is at your disposal. It's my first stop for just about any problem these days. Of course I can still tackle things the "old fashoined" way by just disassembling stuff until I find the problem - if I have to.
I had a `98 Explorer a few years ago, when it seems that everyone did. Anyway, the vehicle began to run poorly and then a light appeared on the dash. It was one of those icon lights that looked like a fuel pump, but the cute little pump had small drops of rain falling on it. I had never seen the icon before, not even when starting the car, so I was really confused. Just the same, the icon suggested water in the fuel, and the car was acting like it had water in the fuel. I stopped at a gas station where the vehicle struggled to idle and threw in a can deicer. Almost instantly the combustion smoothed out and I made it back home. I went through the manual and couldn't find the rainy fuel pump icon anywhere. I drove to the dealer and asked them about it, but they said there was no such thing. I took a flashlight and lit up the dash where you could see the little rainy fuel pump icon, the service people were astonished to see the icon, but said there was nothing at all in the service literature. I did a little digging on my own and found that there was a fuel contamination sensor and light on the diesel version, so for whatever reason my vehicle had been equipped with the mystery sensor.
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