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02 December 2008 @ 09:17 am
Grape Expectations  
Back in the summer, I took my 1997 Ford Aspire (nicknamed "The Grape" for its deep indigo hue) into my local Goodyear service center for a general check-up -- "tell me what needs to be done."

"What needs to be done", all total, came to about $1500 -- but a goodly chunk of it is the regular 90,000 mile maintenance. Since the Grape's odometer only just rolled over to 85,000 a week or two back, I have plenty of time to get a little done at a time. I had to replace the axles back in August, and I just got the brakes done, and now I can start whittling away at the actual engine-related parts of the list.

So, naturally, yesterday, I was running around town doing some errands. I'd finished up pretty much everything, and was going to call it a day. About a mile from home...

The Check Engine light came on.

Now, I was already planning to take the Grape in on Thursday for the Next Step On The List -- the Cam Shaft belt, which can turn an engine into a solid lump of metal if it breaks -- so I should be okay. I've Googled "1997 Ford Aspire Check Engine Light", and it looks like the most common cause is the coolant system -- which is also on the list, with the same priority as the Cam Shaft belt.

Just to play it safe, though... I'm driving quelonzia's car for the next couple of days, and driving her to and from work.

I'm just hoping it doesn't turn out to be something on top of the existing list.

I should note that, while the Grape is up for a Whole Buncha Maintenance At Once, it's her Ninety Thousand Mile Check. I got her with about 36,000 already on her, so she's taken me nearly 50,000 miles with no maintenance beyond a couple of oil changes (and that ongoing issue with the problem wheel that finally got outright replaced a couple of years ago).

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Bobyourbob on December 2nd, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
At least you're not "wine-ing" about the Grape squeezing you. :)

I was told the Check Engine light is most often a loose gas cap. Something to do with air pressure sensors. Something to look at anyway.
Drakedrakegrey on December 2nd, 2008 06:52 pm (UTC)
I like to think of the 'check engine' light as equivalent to the 'master alarm' on the old Apollo spacecraft. 'Something is not operating within engineered and required parameters - go look'.

I think the Prius is more nuanced but, I still don't have an Okudagram interfsace to check its warp manifolds or... Um. Whatever.
Araquan Skytracer: World of Motionaraquan on December 2nd, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Could possibly be the oxygen sensor (or one of the sensors, if you have two) in the emission control system as well. Those can fail when you start getting near the 100K mark, and you're getting close to 90% of the way there. If you've experienced a decrease in fuel efficiency lately that may be a sign. My Civic has about 93K on it and allegedly wants one. I'm going to run some checks to see if it's a wiring issue first. And read the codes my car's computer spits out to see what else it thinks is wrong. o.o

But as drakegrey says, it's pretty much just a "master alarm" light and there are any number of parameters that might be out of range and cause the computer to activate it. Need to read the code(s) or have them read for you to see exactly what's wrong, barring something glaringly obvious like gascaps, fluid levels, etc.
Arcaton: boneyr_caton on December 2nd, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC)
My workmate had that...Nissan Micra, t'was... both sensors and some other stuff, cost him nearly a grand.....and that was POUNDS STERLING.
Me? I go through bulbs like a baby through nappies, and the cost of my last service+the cost of the slipping clutch+ the gearbox that sounded like a motormower on overrun (new is £2K, more than she's worth, she got a secondhander, not recon, for £230) skinned me for over £900 - Suzuki Dragon R+ I have.... had 3 new wheelbearings too, but there are the remains of a towbar on her and what the owners towed I hate to think....
Astorastor_apatosaur on December 2nd, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
Doing the factory prescribed maintenence is a good thing that a lot of owners don't bother with. "Fix it when it breaks" isn't too hot when it's something like a timing belt!

The "Check Engine" light has two modes: on steady and on blinking. If it's blinking it usually is a critical failure of some kind and means "stop driving me RIGHT NOW", like a loss of oil pressure or something else that can cause mechanical damage. On steady is usually an emissions system fault -- which is annoying because it could be a thousand things. The car running out of its expecte temp could cause it (stuck thermostat, etc), mass airflow meter, oxygen sensors... The garage will plug a diagnostic computer into Grape and that'll tell them why the light went off. Hopefully nothing serious!

How DOES a dragon fit into a subcompact car?
Hafochafoc on December 3rd, 2008 01:31 am (UTC)
The Grape is a most impressive scoot, and I wish her well. You too, of course.