Ever since computerized systems onboard cars were introduced in the 80s, they have come with a "malfunction indicator lamp," commonly known as a check engine light. In the four decades of these yellow indicators that light up on your dash to tell you something is wrong with no information, this has yet to evolve and it's time for the check engine light to keep up with technology.

Anxiety Light

As someone who has absolutely zero knowledge about car repairs, seeing the check engine light may as well be called the "anxiety light." It popped on right after I had four new tires put on my car and not knowing if maybe that same sensor that lets you know your tire pressure is low may also let you know something else is wrong with them.

When I took it back to have the lug nuts retorqued, I was told the check engine light has nothing to do with the tires. Then the technician went and grabbed a device that looked like an old calculator and plugged it into a port under the steering wheel. It gave him a code which he then had to look up on his smartphone to find out what the trouble was.

Time For An Upgrade

.kkursor via Wikipedia
.kkursor via Wikipedia

I'm watching him do all this and thinking to myself that my car has a computer onboard, it has two LED displays that will show me everything from what song is playing on the radio, what temperature my heat is set to, and it will even show me how much power is going to each wheel. It knows all these things, yet when something goes wrong, it still displays that yellow icon of an engine and someone has to look up the code to find out what the problem is. Why is this car still using technology from 1992?

We live in a world of connectivity where the answers to all our questions are right at our fingertips, yet finding out why your check engine light is on is a chore. If the computer in your car can give you the code on a thing that looks like a calculator, why can't it display that code on the car display along with what that code means?

Storing the information for those codes and their meaning in the car's computers is just a tiny fraction of the storage we have available to us, considering the average smartphone can store the same amount of information that would be in books on a bookshelf that stretches longer than a football field. Armed with that info, I can go to the mechanic and say "My car says that there's high pressure in the thingmagig."

Knowing what the problem is even if I don't know what it means would sure be a big help and maybe reduce that panic we all feel when we hop in the car for a long trip and see that engine light come on. It will also save us the hassle of having a tech look it up like they're looking up how to spell a word in a dictionary. Who does that any more? You have the technology car manufacturers. Let's do this! I don't think it's too much to ask.

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