Televangelists promise to heeea-uhl you if you put your hand up against the TV – but that (usually) doesn’t work with your car. The “check engine” light won’t go out no matter how hard you holler for deliverance.
Part of the problem is the absence of forewarning that is built into many modern cars. You’ve got more blinking lights and flat-screen displays than the bridge of the Battlestar Galactica – but often not much in the way of useful, real time info about the operating condition of your car’s engine and driveline.
The “check engine” or “service engine soon” light can mean anything from minor stuff you can put off for awhile (time to get an oil change or tune-up) to something potentially serious that requires right-now attention. As a general rule, if the warning light is yellow, you can wait. If it’s red, it’s probably more important – and immediate.
But more specific info would be nice, eh?
On the main dashboard display of most new cars, the automakers usually give you at least a coolant temperature gauge which – if you’re paying attention – will warn you of overheating before you actually boil over. But people often don’t pay attention – not noticing that the needle is creeping toward the red zone until it’s obvious there’s a problem. By which time, of course, it’s too late. A back-up light along with a warning buzzer to get the driver’s attention seems like it’d be a good idea, but not many (if any) cars have such a redundant warning system.
It’s usually either an idiot light that comes on when it’s already too late – or a gauge that’s just as useless if no one’s paying attention.
Why not combine the two – and have a gauge that’s idiot-proofed by an accompanying warning light and chime that prompts the driver to look at the thing and see what’s up? This is the layout in airplanes and it makes just as much sense to equip cars similarly.
And how about more gauges – especially useful ones such as a transmission temperature gauge , which could save motorists a fortune if they notice a running-hot unit before the unit cooks itself. Only a handful of new vehicles – most of them trucks – come with a transmission temperature gauge. It ought to be standard equipment on every car or truck with an automatic transmission. Especially vehicles that might be used to pull a trailer , etc.
Another bit of strangeness: Just about every new car and truck – including boozy highway cruisers driven by AARP snoozers – comes equipped with a large tachometer to keep track of engine RPMs, but the vast majority of new cars and trucks sold in the United States have automatic transmissions, rendering the tachometer a bauble of no particular practical use that eats up real estate on the dashboard – real estate that could probably be put to better use.
Even in cars with manual transmissions, tachs are almost superfluous – since all modern cars have electronic rev limiters to avoid the former potentially catastrophic mistake of over-speeding the engine.
Ford doesn’t even paint redlines on the tachs of its new cars anymore.
In an automatic-equipped car – especially a luxury sedan or family car with an automatic – a tachometer is as functionally relevant to the driver as a Mussolini-like Fez. Maybe it makes the driver feel sporty, but it doesn’t really do much for him.
A transmission temperature gauge, on the other hand, just might save him a wad of cash.
Throw it in the Woods?