The absolute worst thing that can befall a driver happened to me on the way to work this morning. The one singular auto event that can send shivers of fear and panic up the spine of even the most seasoned road warrior.
My “check engine” light came on.
For the millions of us who haven’t the faintest idea of how a car runs, and frankly don’t care to know, the “check engine” light is the bane of our existence. When it lights up, our first reaction is dread. Then fear. Then, “How much is this going to cost me?”
Check engine! Check engine! What does that even mean? I pulled into my usual parking spot at work and opened the hood of my car. Yup, by golly, the engine was still there.
Admit it, when that little dreaded light comes on, cleverly masked as a cartoonishly innocuous image of an engine as well as usually being accompanied by a soothing little “ding ding” sound, what do you think about? I think about driving along the highway and literally having the engine fall out and on to the road. CRASH!
Maybe the little warning light means the engine is about to explode. Or catch fire. Maybe after seeing it light up, your vehicle will simply grind to a stop, you know, that ear splitting metal-against-metal kind of a stop. Whatever it means, it never means anything good. I am surprised that instead of the words “check engine” on the graphic that it doesn’t say “the sky is falling.”
So, we all pull into a service station and guess what? They look concernedly at the “check engine” light and then after a cursory check (which starts the money meter) they tell you it is something elementary, silly really. Your gas cap is not on right. You have a directional signal out. Your tires are slightly deflated. Your rear view mirror is dirty.