Service engine soon? Check the code first

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: May 20, 2011 - 4:04 PM

Q I took my 2000 Cadillac DeVille in for an oil change, and at the time there was a notice on my dashboard saying "service engine soon." They changed my oil and recommended a list of services in order to get the light to go off, including an air filter, cabin filter, motor mount, front and rear brakes, transmission torque converter or overhaul and a side marker bulb. The car still runs fine. What should I do to get the notice to go off on my dash?

A Your vehicle may or may not need those routine maintenance services, but the only problem that could directly trigger the light is a transmission or torque converter problem. Before you have any service done, find out the specific fault codes that triggered the light and are stored in the powertrain control module (PCM) memory.

Q I have a '97 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 360-cubic-inch V8 engine. It has 177,400 miles on it. About six months ago, the fuel gauge started giving false readings. It was accurate after a fill, but after using 3 or 4 gallons, the gauge reads "empty" and the low-fuel indicator light comes on. At 16 gallons, the needle comes off empty and the light goes out. Within 2 more gallons, the needle returns to empty and the light comes back on. I refuel based on the odometer and the truck's miles-per-gallon rating. Does the gauge operate separately from the pump or am I risking a sudden shutdown? Can the gauge mechanism be replaced/repaired independently of the pump?

A I suspect there's a dead spot on the resistor track in the fuel gauge sending unit. The sender is mounted on the fuel pump module inside the fuel tank and incorporates a float arm that moves up and down with the fuel level, varying the electrical resistance in the fuel gauge circuit. The good news: It's independent of the fuel pump, so as long as there's adequate fuel in the tank, you won't suffer a "sudden shutdown." The bad news: To test, service or replace the sending unit, the fuel tank must be removed from the vehicle. If you decide to fix this, the sending unit can be replaced independently from the pump. But if it's the original fuel pump with that many miles, it might make sense to replace the pump as well.

Q A bad axle seal caused the manual transmission on my '96 Escort to go bad at 133,000 miles. After a complete rebuild, trouble code P0500 (VSS malfunction) came on after about 25 miles of driving. I replaced the vehicle speed sensor and cleared the trouble code, but after another 25 miles of driving, the P0500 code set again. I've checked electrical connections to the sensor, and all seems well. Could the mating drive gear inside the transmission possibly be free-wheeling and not driving the sensor after the rebuild?

A According to my Alldata automotive database, the vehicle speed sensor drives the speedometer cable as well as providing an electrical signal to the PCM. So, unless the speedometer is not working properly, the sensor is being driven correctly by the transmission. Focus on the harness and connections for the sensor. In the course of removing and reinstalling the transmission, the harness may well have been pinched, pulled or shorted.

Q What is your opinion of Ford's decision not to import the Ford Fiesta Econetic from England to the United States for "business reasons"? It sounds like Ford thinks it cannot make enough profit on this imported car -- and that Americans do not want a diesel car.

A So far, they're correct. I think Ford's reasoning is more along the lines of "not enough" Americans want diesel-powered cars -- regardless of fuel economy benefits -- to justify the staggering costs of emissions certification, crash testing, importing, training sales and service personnel, inventorying parts, advertising and introducing a new model to the U.S. market.

At least not yet!

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 7 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 1
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Houston 85 FINAL
Miami 90
Indiana 89 FINAL
Minnesota 107
Utah 105 FINAL
Oklahoma City 91
Portland 93 FINAL
Denver 75
Phoenix 94 1st OT
LA Lakers 94
LA Clippers 66 3rd Qtr 7:20
Golden State 78
San Jose 3 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Rangers 4 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 3
Toronto 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Detroit 1 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 2
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Nashville 4
Carolina 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 4
Vancouver 3 FINAL
Dallas 6
Florida 4 FINAL(OT)
Colorado 3
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(OT)
Calgary 1
Arkansas State 40 FINAL
Louisiana 55
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Montreal 10/24/14 5:30 PM
Saskatchewan 10/24/14 8:30 PM
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters