It Is Important To Heed ‘Check Engine' Light Warning



For the past several years, I have been reading reports in the Roundup of auto accidents occurring in the Payson area, where the authorities are unable to resolve what caused them.

Assumptions are made that alcohol and drug abuse, fatigue, and cell phones are often the main culprits. However, I believe there is another serious problem being overlooked, and that is a Mass Air Flow Sensor malfunction in the emission system of a vehicle. I became aware of this after the check engine light on our dashboard flashed on and off, sporadically, over a long period of time. Coffee group friends reported similar problems and said not to be concerned. All of us had taken our vehicles to mechanics for routine checkups and nothing surfaced. I just ignored the light when it appeared after that.

About a month ago, however, we made a trip to the Valley and stopped to visit a relative. The light had been on all the time during the trip. After the visit, we drove several blocks and the engine conked out completely with no warning. Although it was difficult to steer without power steering, I let the car coast to a driveway in the neighborhood, where I stopped. It started right up and we later returned to Payson without incident, even though the light remained on all the way.

Back home, the warning light would come on and go off again for several weeks. Then it got worse. On short trips around Payson, the engine would go kaput every several blocks. At that point I finally realized we had a more serious problem. I took the car to a professional auto shop, where their computer diagnosed the problem as a Mass Air Flow Sensor malfunction. They installed a new one a few days ago and so far so good.

Our vehicle is a 1999 Buick Le Sabre with less than 55,000 miles. We bought it when it was a tad more than a year old. In reading the owner's manual, it was not clear to me if the repairs were still under warranty. In one place it reads that such repairs are covered up to "8 years/80,000 miles, whichever comes first." I called the General Motors folks in Michigan, told my story, and they informed me the next day that, not to my surprise, the problem was not eligible for warranty.

Which brings me to the real reason for this letter: to alert your readers to find out early on why the check engine light may be giving a warning. If we had been driving down to Rye or up to Pine and Strawberry on Highway 87 and the engine died with no power steering, I shudder to think of the consequences. We could have catapulted off a cliff and into the canyon below or plowed head-on into an approaching vehicle.

Should this warning save only one life or prevent just one serious accident, it will be worth far more than the $434.72 that I spent for the new sensor.

Bill McClymonds

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