Boulder City Magazine is a monthly publication full of information about Boulder City and Southern Nevada. Boulder City Magazine features the Boulder City Home Guide, a real estate guide to Boulder City and Southern Nevada.

Tech Tip
by Brad Appleby
Appleby Arts

Check Engine Light

Have you ever had the “Check Engine Light” go on in your car? I had one go on last week and it cost me about $500. Most newer cars have computers controlling everything, and it takes a special “reader” for the car’s computer to tell you what the problem is.

You can use the one provided at AutoZone here in Boulder City, or you can buy one for yourself from $50. This “reader” will diagnose the problem and give you a code, like P0401, which you use to find out what the problem is and how to fix it. The codes are listed in your car’s parts manual, or you can find them at According to my “code,” my car had 14 items that could have been the problem. At a cost of $50 to $100 per part, this procedure gets costly. You can also take your car to a garage for troubleshooting and a mechanic will “diagnose” the car and tell you what part is bad. We have a few places in town that can do this such as Auto Specialists and Lakeside Auto. Thanks to the guys at Lakeside Auto for helping me understand everything. Once you know what part is bad, you can change it yourself or have it changed by a mechanic.

1. If you just filled your car with gas and the “Check Engine Light” came on it could be just a loose gas cap. Take off the gas cap and put it back on again and turn it until it clicks. This could save you $100 in troubleshooting.
2. NEVER smog your car with a “Check Engine Light” on. It will always fail and still cost you money. A technician can’t tell you your car will fail before he does the test. But I can! This is a bad rule, but technicians have to follow it or they can get a fine.
3. After extinguishing the “Check Engine Light”, if you had to clear the codes on your computer or remove a battery, don’t get a smog test until you have driven the car about 2-3 hours or about 150 miles. Otherwise, the smog will fail because the computer needs to reload engine data and your “Check Engine Light” might come back on.

I hope this information will help you understand a few things about the “Check Engine Light” in your car. For more information, go to for a list of major phone numbers and how to get to customer service people.

If you have any topics that you would like to find out more about, or a topic for my article, just e-mail me:, or call me at (702) 294-1392. Visit my web site at

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