Car Guides

How driving can reset the ‘check engine’ light

When a problem triggers the "check engine" light, a code will be set in the computer's memory. Dreamstime/TNS

Q: We have a 2011 Chrysler 200 Limited with about 23,500 miles. When we took it in for the emissions test, the test apparatus could not communicate with the sensors. Our Chrysler dealer said the sensors had to be reset. I took the car out and logged about 180 miles on the tollways and the interstate. Apparently, that was enough to reset the last two sensors. Can you explain what happened?

— J.B., Norridge, Ill.

A: When a problem triggers the “check engine” light, a code will be set in the computer’s memory. Using a special tool, technicians can clear the codes, at least most of them. Some codes will finally reset themselves if you drive your car in a manner similar to the original new car emissions certification. This includes accelerating as in urban traffic, slowing, stopping and so on. You must also perform a highway drive routine. Once all the pending codes are cleared, your car will pass the mandatory emissions inspection.

Q: Many aftermarket oil filters can be used on various makes and models, domestic or import. Does this also mean that I can go to my local import dealership and cross reference the aftermarket number to be used on my domestic, or should I just leave well enough alone? Also, what name brand filter do you recommend, or are you going to say choose original equipment for your domestic or import?

— A.K., Tinley Park, Ill.

A: Aftermarket filters such as AC Delco, Fram, Purolator, Autolite, and even auto parts stores’ house brands are safe and will not harm your engine. Online, you can find many of the brands and part numbers that fit your car. Or you could visit a store and have a salesperson look them up, or look them up yourself in the catalogs hanging near the shelf. I don’t have a recommendation.

Q: Is that Aquapel or RainX (mentioned in a previous column) still useful for my daughter and son-in-law if they have that system that allows them to warm up the car from inside the house or at work? I never know what to buy them.


— D.G., Homer Glen, Ill.

A: Warming the car will certainly help rid the windshield of snow or ice, but depending on accumulation and temperature, it may take some time. Even with auto-start convenience, some scraping or brushing may be required. Glass treatment products help. Being basically a lazy person, I use them all the time and treat not only the windshield, but all glass on the sides and rear.

Lincoln recently announced its Advanced VisioBlade wiper system, available on the Aviator, designed to keep windshields clear by dispensing wiper fluid through integrated nozzles in the blades. There is also a heating element that keeps blades warm up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit to defrost the windshield in four minutes, versus 15 minutes using a traditional defroster, according to the company. There was no mention of how much replacement blades will cost.

Q: It appears that the major German automakers have permanently eliminated CD players as an option. Is this an industry-wide trend or will the CD option still be available from some Japanese or other carmakers?

— B.B., Pembroke Pines, Fla.

A: The “Highway Hi-Fi” was a record player available as an option on the 1956 Chrysler, Desoto, Dodge, and Plymouth. Then came the 8-track tape, followed by the small tape cassette and eventually the CD. Digital media is the current king. Although expensive, CD players that plug into the car’s USB port are available.

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