We all know the 'check engine' light. For car enthusiasts it's a slap in the face. For people who just view their vehicle as A-to-B transport, it's dangerous. It obscures all manner of problems, shrouding them in a fog of mystery and making it easier for dishonest mechanics to take advantage of unknowing customers. We have chimes and lights on the dash for seatbelts, lights, low tyre pressures and keys left in the ignition but that check engine light can be anything from a loose petrol cap to an engine on the verge of destroying itself. All modern cars are equipped with OBD-II onboard diagnostics - they have been since 1996. We have the ability to put LCD displays in just about everything now so why not replace the check engine light with an LCD display that tells the owner what's actually wrong? Instead we have to rely on nerds like me with handheld scanners and an internet connection, products like the excellent CarMD or sometimes less-than-scrupulous dealers and mechanics with their "special tool".
In the US at least, there are federal mandates for things like tyre pressure warning systems and airbag warning lights - isn't it about time we got them to ban the check engine light and force manufacturers to put something more useful in its place? It can't be a cost issue - look at all the funky new electronic gizmos that are being put in cars now from pointless touchscreen interfaces to even more pointless auto-lights. Is it perhaps some conspiracy theory to keep dealers and mechanics profitable by hiding what could be a very simple problem from largely ignorant owners?
If, like me, you think the check engine light has had its day and you think there's a better opportunity, then go and sign the petition: Ban the check engine light.
In the meantime I can make life a little easier for you as I have a CarMD to give away in a competition. Head on over and try your luck. At the very least you'll be able to go to the mechanic with some level of knowledge next time that little yellow light comes on.