Latest Reader Q (6/11/2017)

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Here’s the latest Reader Q – and my answer! 

Gloria asks:

I have a 2011 Chevy Tracker. The “check engine” light is on when started up and there is a ticking sound. It’s been sitting for over 3 weeks. What is the noise? What do I need to check?

My Answer:

The “check engine” light comes on when the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) system detects a fault, usually with the emissions control system. It will stay on – usually – until a code reader is hooked up to the vehicle and the code(s) are read and then cleared. Ideally, after the reason for the issue has been fixed!

The light concerns me less than the ticking noise at start up. That is cause for immediately turning off the engine – and checking the oil level on the dipstick. If it is low, add to the “full” mark and restart the engine. If the ticking goes away, you found – and fixed – your problem, which was low oil level.

If the engine still ticks, you should – for the sake of your wallet – shut it off and leave it off until it can be determined why it is making the noise. The ticking is indicative of an oiling problem. You do not want to run the engine with low oil pressure – possibly the result of a failing oil pump or a clogged oil pump pick-up, etc.

It is worth a tow. $75 – vs. a couple thousand, if your engine locks up due to oil starvation.

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  1. Have you heard of the new Hyundai engines having severe misfire due to going over 8,000 miles highway on an oil change? Guy in here is having problems with his, it has 22,000 miles I think. The shop said he went to far on and oil change. Needs $600 spark plugs and tore apart to clean “gunk”..

    Something doesn’t sound right.

    • Hi Todd,

      Many new cars go 7,000-10,000 miles in between oil changes; I don’t see how that would cause a misfire. A misfire issue would more likely be an ignition issue (e.g., a bad coil pack). Good news is that regardless, this should be covered under the factory powertrain warranty, which is in force for ten years/100,000 miles.

  2. A friend of a nephew was headed from 60 miles away to my house. He called from a little community halfway and said his oil light on his Suburban had come on. I asked if it had enough oil. Yep, just checked it and it’s fine. How many miles since you changed the oil and filter? I haven’t. What do you mean? I have never changed the oil and filter. That could be your problem. I told him to have somebody bring a trailer since I knew he couldn’t afford a tow. Nope, nobody to bring a trailer.

    He gets it to the closest town and changes the oil and filter. Voila, light didn’t come back on. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Back in the 60’s I was changing oil at the station and the neighbor my age across the street asked me something about changing oil. I do it every 3000 miles or less. When do you change oil?(he had a new Mustang probably less than 2 years old he got new and had 44,000 miles on it) I never have he said. Reckon I need to? I reckoned so.

    I could never understand what people didn’t understand about changing oil and filters and keeping some sort of a watch on it. All vehicles come with a manual(book, not shift). Read it All sorts of good info therein.


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