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Blaine, MN

SERVICE GARAGE:  763-792-4949



The history of the check engine light is interesting. These days, it’s easy to overlook the car features we’re used to seeing. Consider the check engine light. Have you ever thought about how it came to be in history? If so, you’re in the right place. We’re covering the complete history of the check engine light, so stick around to learn something new.

History how exactly does the light work?

Before we dive in history, let’s review some basics. A check engine light is also known as a malfunction indicator lamp, or MIL. It’s a warning light run by your car’s computer system that tells when there’s an engine malfunction. The check engine light is a red or orange light that’s usually found on the dashboard. Sometimes it looks like an image of an engine, but other times it will appear as a phrase, like “SERVICE ENGINE SOON”. If the light is visible but not blinking, it indicates a non-urgent issue. If the light is blinking, it means there’s a more serious problem that needs immediate attention.

When the check engine light gets activated, the engine control unit saves a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). This code is read by a scan tool to identify the issue. An activated MIL can point to a wide range of vehicle issues, with some more serious than others.

History when the check engine light standardized?

In 1996, an on-board vehicle diagnostic system, known as OBD2, was invented. It became a requirement for all vehicles sold in the United States as part of a federal directive to reduce vehicle emissions. SinceallnewvehicleswereequippedwithOBD2technology,it resulted in a system of DTCs that were implemented across the board. This is the system we still use today that allows check engine lights to function the way they do. Because of this system, our skillful technicians at SVC Garage of Blaine can use scan tool technology to easily diagnose vehicle issues. The scan tool shows what DTC triggered the check engine light so we can resolve the issue right away.

How has the CEL evolved over time and History?

Before OBD2 and the DTC system that came with it, there wasn’t a centralized system for automobile issues. There were check engine lights dating back to the 1980s, but not in all vehicles. They only existed in vehicles with computerized engine controls. These check engine lights were more simple in comparison to what we have today. They could only detect vehicle issues specific to an automobile manufacturer. Because of this, it was a lot harder for auto technicians to detect the reason for a triggered check engine light.


The most primitive form of the check engine light was called an idiot light or warning light. These lights served as tell-tales. They only turned on when a major issue or breakdown was imminent. Unfortunately, they didn’t give any real warning of a vehicle fault. History shows the Hudson Motor Car Company was the first manufacturer to use the idiot light in cars. They began installing them sometime during the mid-1930s. As soon as check engine lights gained traction in the early 1980s, idiot lights were discontinued to avoid confusion between the two.


Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since the 1930s. Today, knowledgeable auto technicians can detect vehicle issues in a flash. Oftentimes, check engine lights are triggered for minor issues. Resolving these issues can prevent you from having a bigger problem down the road, saving you time and money on vehicle repairs.

That wraps up our brief history of the check engine light. The next time you see that your car’s check engine light is on, just be glad you’re not living in the 1930s. Think of that check engine light as your car’s way of letting you know it needs a little love, and give us a call.


8 Reasons Your Car’s Check Engine Light is On and What You Need to Do About It

You’re cruising along with the windows rolled down when suddenly you notice your check engine light is on. Such a bummer. There are lots of reasons the CEL gets activated. Today, we’re talking about 8 of the most common causes and what you need to do when this happens.


1. Oxygen sensor

One way your car’s CEL can be triggered is a faulty oxygen sensor. This sensor detects how much oxygen is in the exhaust. When it’s not working properly, your car will use up more gas than it needs. If this issue goes unchecked, it could damage the catalytic converter, costing you thousands of dollars.


2. Loose or missing fuel cap

The CEL will also be activated by a loose or cracked fuel cap. The fuel cap keeps debris out of the gas tank and prevents vapors from leaking out. This is an easy and inexpensive repair, but don’t procrastinate. Not replacing it will lead to increased fuel emissions and poor fuel economy.


3. Catalytic converter

A clogged catalytic converter will also trigger the CEL. Your engine’s catalytic converter changes carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. Since this isn’t a part that needs regular maintenance, it’s indicative of another underlying issue. Unfortunately, replacing this part is expensive. Investing in routine maintenance will help you avoid a clogged catalytic converter, saving you time and money down the road.


4. Spark plugs and spark plug wires

The CEL will also turn on if there’s a problem with your spark plugs and wires. These parts light the fuel and air mixture in the engine. If the spark plugs or wires are old or faulty, you’ll have weakened engine performance and bad fuel economy. Thankfully, replacing spark plugs is a minor repair. But, if the issue isn’t resolved in time, it can lead to a clogged catalytic converter or damaged oxygen sensors.


5. MAF failure

Your car’s mass air flow (MAF) sensor measures how much air enters the engine. This tells your car how much fuel is needed for it to run properly. If there’s a malfunction, you’ll definitely see the CEL. A common cause for MAF failure is not changing out the air filter regularly. If an issue with the MAF sensor goes unchecked, it can affect other parts of the engine, leading to more serious repairs in the future.


6. Battery

Your car’s battery is essential to its operation. An undercharged or faulty battery will definitely trigger your vehicle’s CEL. Since today’s batteries don’t require maintenance and only need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years on average, this isn’t a common reason for the CEL.


7. Vacuum leak

A vacuum leak will also cause your car’s CEL to turn on. Typically, a vacuum leak happens because the rubber linings crack or get stretched out. If you have an issue with your car’s vacuum, chances are there’s another engine part that’s affected. That’s because the vacuum controls lots of things, including the heating and A/C vents, cruise control, exhaust, and brake booster.


8. EGR valve

An issue with your car’s EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve will also trigger your CEL. The EGR system takes a small amount of exhaust gases back into the engine intake. This lowers the combustion temperature. The EGR valve controls the gas flow from the exhaust manifold to the intake manifold. If the flow is more or less than normal, your car will let you know with the CEL.

There are lots of reasons your car’s CEL may be on, and it’s not always easy to see why. Luckily, our skilled technicians at Service Garage of Blaine are here to help. While it may be tempting to put off, it’s best practice to schedule an inspection as soon as you see the CEL. Give us a call at (​763) 792-4949​ to schedule your appointment today.



Your Check Engine Light is On – What Should You Do?

What steps should you take when you see that dreaded check engine light? As you know, it can point to a lot of different issues, both major and minor. Whatever you do, don’t just ignore it. Doing so could end up causing you bigger problems in the future. Today, we’ll talk about the steps you need to take when you see your car’s check engine light.

Should I keep driving?

When you see your check engine light, it’ll either be blinking or illuminated. If it’s illuminated, it indicates a problem that’s typically not an emergency. You should still get it checked out as soon as you can, but it’s not a major crisis. If the light is blinking, then you need to pull over right away. This means there’s a major engine malfunction that needs immediate attention. In any case, whenever you see the check engine light, examine your car for anything that indicates a dangerous problem. If you notice loss of power, hear strange noises, or see engine smoke, you may have a serious engine malfunction. If so, avoid driving your car if you can. Doing so can lead to more damage. If possible, get your vehicle towed to a nearby service provider for diagnostics.

Troubleshooting the check engine light

If there are no indications of an engine malfunction and if your check engine light isn’t blinking, you may be able to troubleshoot the issue. The first place to check is your fuel cap. A loose fuel cap can set off your car’s check engine light. Inspect your fuel cap for any cracks or damage and tighten it. This may turn the check engine light off, and you can be on your way.


Another spot to look at is your oil dipstick. Check to make sure it’s properly seated. You’ll also want to make sure that the oil fill cap is tightly secured. This is found on top of the engine valve cover. Taking these steps can also deactivate your check engine light. To get a better idea of what’s triggering your check engine light, you may want to invest in an OBD2 scanner. This handy tool can detect which diagnostic trouble code (DTC) activated your car’s check engine light. To read the DTC, you’ll have to connect the OBD2 scanner to the data link connector. This is typically located underneath the driver’s side dashboard.

OBD2 Scanner

You can pick up a high-quality OBD2 scanner for under $100. The DTC will point you in the direction of where the engine malfunction is coming from, but it won’t give you a lot of specific information. Using a scan tool can help you understand the severity of the problem. From here, you can decide to make the repair yourself, or bring your car in for professional diagnostics. Resist the urge to panic when you see your car’s check engine light. Stay relaxed and take note of the situation. Formulate a plan to troubleshoot. Seek help immediately if you have an urgent problem. If your problem is not urgent, make a plan for maintenance.


At Service Garage of Blaine, we can diagnose your vehicle issues fast to get you back in action in no time. Give us a call at (763) 792-4949, or ​schedule your appointment online today. Our experienced technicians are always here to help.