Dashboard danger: warning lights not to ignore

An oil warning light shows up on your dashboard. What do you do? Sometimes it seems that dash lights come on randomly, when nothing’s wrong. So why worry about it?

“There’s no light on the dashboard that should ever be ignored,” says Shelly Smith, owner of Port Moody Auto & Air. “Oil, battery, coolant, ‘check engine,’ all need to be dealt with. A light tells you something’s not working.”

It’s very different from the old days when people used to put a piece of tape over the ‘check oil’ light that kept coming on every other day when nothing was wrong, Smith explains. Today’s dash lights give more accurate readings.

And if the check engine light is flashing, you don’t want to take any chances, Smith says.

“Get it off the road and don’t drive it at all. You have to pull over.”

Unfortunately, not everyone takes this advice.

“We had a woman with a Mini Cooper and her check engine light had been on forever,” says Smith. “She had 52 codes behind that, and all of these codes are combining. It’s hard to figure out where to start on the car.”

Some people try to save money by self-assessing and doing repairs just using the trouble codes that Smith and her team uncover during a diagnostic.

“We say OK, they can try and fix things on their own,” Smith says, “but more often than not, they come back.”

The key, of course, is not just getting the codes. Whether you have two or 52 codes, you still need to be able to diagnose the problem, says Smith, and that’s where you need the expertise that 50 years in the automotive service can provide.

So the next time a warning light flashes on your dashboard, don’t assume it’s nothing.

“At least get it diagnosed,” says Smith. “You want to know what you’re dealing with.”

Complete engine failure could be the result of an ignored light, and the cost to replace that starts at $3,000.

“You’re going to spend more money in the long run,” says Smith. “The longer you leave it, the worse it’s going to get.”

If you have any questions about your dash lights, contact Port Moody Auto & Air. Visit their website, call 604-461-7856 or email. You can also find Port Moody Auto & Air on Facebook.

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