check engine light analysis in minneapolis mn

Computerized Engine Analysis

Turn Off Your Check Engine Light

Your engine is what makes your vehicle go. If your check engine light is on, it may mean there’s a problem holding your engine back from performing at its best. If your dashboard is showing the dreaded “check engine” light, bring your car in to Alexander’s today for honest, professional service.

We’ll conduct a full computerized engine analysis and make sure your engine’s in top shape before getting you back on the road.

Get Your Engine Checked

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 Alexander’s Import Auto Repair did an amazing job with my car. They provided great customer service – even setting me up with a complimentary loaner car so I didn’t have to miss any work. 

Griffin R          

Why Your Check Engine Light is On

For decades cars have used computers to control more and more systems. To talk to your car’s computers we use computers of our own. Modern vehicles have a different computer, aka “control module” for every system. Some newer cars have more than 20 control modules. Here are just a few examples of these control modules:

The engine control module (ECM or ECU) controls the functions of the engine, including when the spark plugs fire, when the fuel injectors open, and how much fuel to put into the engine based on how much air is entering. The engine control module also monitors the emissions systems of the car. This includes the evaporative emissions system, which controls fuel vapors, and the exhaust system. The ECM monitors how well fuel is burned and how well the catalytic converter is performing to reduce emissions from the tailpipe.

The anti-lock brake system (ABS),  traction control system (tracs), and stability control system often use the same control module. Some vehicles dedicate one control module to each of these systems. This system monitors how fast each wheel is spinning and how fast the engine is moving. By monitoring these inputs the control module can determine if the vehicle is slipping, and can adjust brake pressure or tell the ECM to change the output of the engine. Newer cars will also change individual inputs of brakes or torque to help control cornering and braking, even in the most treacherous conditions.

The safety restraint system (SRS) includes the air bags system and the seat belts in your vehicle. The SRS control module checks for any faults in the system every time the vehicle is started. If the SRS or airbag warning comes on your dash the airbag system won’t function properly. The SRS control module is also what decides which airbags need to be deployed in case of a crash based on which crash sensors send a signal on impact.

Many vehicles now have a separate control module for the radio and for lights, and many have them in each door to control the window, locks and mirrors.

All of these control modules receive information from a number of different sensors. You may have heard of sensors, but might not know what they do. The sensor picks up a signal and sends the signal to the control module. The control module then takes this information and decides what to do next. This may mean changing how much fuel is injected into the engine, applying the anti-lock brakes, or deploying the airbags.

On modern cars all of these systems work together and share information to make the car function properly. For example, if the engine is running very poorly it can send a signal to the transmission control module (TCM) to activate limp mode. Or, if the traction control system senses a slipping wheel it will send a signal to the ECM to cut the throttle so the tires stop spinning.

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How to Know if You Need a Computerized Engine Analysis

On any vehicle the warning lights on your dash are designed to let you know there’s a problem. For many of the lights, such as ABS, Tracs, and SRS the fault will cause the system to be inoperable. These are safety features that the manufacturer and our government have said are needed to make your car safe to drive. Many times these systems are not in place for everyday driving, but rather for unforeseen circumstances. For example, when your car is t-boned, you want your airbags to deploy to protect you and your family. Similarly, when someone pulls out in front of you, you want your ABS to function so you stop in time to avoid the accident.

The check engine light (CEL) was originally designed to monitor the emissions systems of your vehicle. In some cases the CEL comes on and warns of an emissions-only problem, such as the gas cap not being secured. Other times the CEL comes on to warn that there is a problem with the thermostat or an oxygen sensor. You may not feel any difference in the way the vehicle drives, but it’s not running as the manufacturer designed. This means you may lose fuel efficiency and vehicle performance, as well as create higher emissions. Any warning light indicates a problem and your car will not perform as designed.

When a fault code appears on your dash many people will simply want it turned off. Although this can be an important diagnostic step it is not always the best course of action. There are many parts stores that will retrieve the fault code at no charge. They will then present you a list of possible causes for the fault. This may seem like a cheap and easy solution, but without professional testing there’s no way of knowing for sure that the new part will fix your car.

How We Conduct a Check Engine Light Analysis

When presented with any warning light we connect the scan tool. In some cases we use the same scan tool used at the dealership. We then retrieve the fault codes the car is presenting. The faults give us a direction in which to begin testing. For some faults the scan tool will monitor sensor inputs and output, letting us know whether or not the part is functioning.

In many cases we can be 100% sure that replacing the part will fix the problem. In other cases the testing is more involved. Fortunately, we have access to a vast database of diagnostic procedures. Once we know the fault code and procedure we perform the recommended tests and confirm the source of the problem. Once we have identified the source we’ll replace the part, clear fault codes, and test drive the vehicle to confirm the system is operating properly.

At Alexander’s we’ve invested resources to ensure we have the capability to scan and diagnose all of the cars we see regularly. We have factory scan tools for many different makes and models, and a few very capable tools to make the job even easier. For you this means saving time and money. 

Stop in for your computerized engine light analysis today!