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What do you do if the service engine light is on in a 93 Expo Minivan but two mechanics can't read the code?

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Answered 2004-10-08 10:20:03

This a general reply to not only the person who asked this question, but to everybody with issues about 'service engine' or 'maintenance required' lights showing up on late model (since 1990)cars. - The light is supposed to indicate that something is wrong with the car. 'Wrong', however, is a relative term and can mean anything from something that could destroy the car if it isn't fixed, to something wrong with the sensing system that's supposed to detect engine, exhaust or fuel system faults. Repair shops have computers, engine analyzers and all sorts of fun toys to read a fault code and localize the reported problem to one that can be fixed. In order for them to find a problem, though, they need a 'hard' code from the engine fault reporting system. That means the on-board computer found a problem, set up a stored code that can be read by the analyzer and turned on the warning light. There are also 'soft' codes that may not be stored in the computer, but, for some reason, turned on the light. If it was a transient problem- maybe water in the fuel or something- the light will often turn off by itself, after the engine runs at the same speed, heat and other conditions that turned on the light in the first place, if no fault is found. If a mechanic (or two) can't find a 'hard' code to chase down, one solution is to reset the onboard computer, which controls all the warning lights. It's the same principle as doing a 'power clear' on your PC because it hung up and won't respond to any commands. To do that, you turn off the main power switch and then turn it back on. The PC (especially those with a Windows platform) will scold and complain about not being shut down properly and run through a check of the hard drive for errors, but will eventually light itself up again and be ready to play. With the on-board computer in a car, any codes stored in the computer will stay there as long as there's power to the computer- even with the engine turned off. To make the on-board computer do the same sort of 'power clear' as you do on your PC, disconnect the black (+) cable from the car's battery (assuming negative ground)and then reconnect it. The computer will dump any stored fault codes and should turn off any warning lights. After that, if a light comes on while you're driving, go to your local repair shop and leave the engine running until the mechanic can get the car hooked up to the diagnostic computer to find a 'hard' code'.

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