So my check engine light went on  a few weeks ago.  Does that mean I am going to die?  No of course not, but it leads to a world of vagueness, ambiguity, uncertainty and concern.   So what’s the error? Well, go to a body shop or your dealer and they can tell you.  WTF? Are you kidding me?  Imagine a laptop was that way?  Sure of course they aren’t the same animal and a car is much more complex, but why do error codes have to be hidden from drivers?  That makes us less informed and more scared when we are in the unknown.

1.  Why can’t an error come up with details of the error and the circumstances if the error isn’t fixed?  For example:  Error code 1A5 – This relates to coolant cap.  It appears the coolant cap is not functioning correctly or is not correctly placed.  Please inspect as soon as possible.  Leaving the coolant cap unsecured can lead to coolant leaking out and causing damage to other components within the engine.

2.  More of a dream, but still – why doesn’t the car use google maps or any mapping application to tell you where the closest body shops are (and/or dealers)

3.  The dream continues, beyond telling you the closest one, you can actually book an appointment with that body shop.  In essence an OpenTable for body shops.

3a.  A twist to this option is that the car notifies no more than 5 shops in the area (based on your criteria, filters) and each body shop has the right to send their initial quote for the investigation of this error code you received.  In fact, the body shop receives all car data with the error so they are well informed to give you the most appropriate quote (prior to investigation).  Then once you see the quote that you prefer (or simply the distance, whatever you prefer), you can then book that appointment right through your car.

In reality, this can all happen very easily.  You use an OBD connector that hooks to your smartphone.  Then, steps 1-3a can be driven by your smartphone app.



  • OBD connector
  • Smartphone app
  • Coordination and communication system setup with body shops  (which actually could be easy via email initially – if  body shops all have email readily available)

 Some followup questions to you the public out there:

  1. How often does your check engine light come on?
  2. What do you do when it comes on?
    • Do you call any body shop, do you call a dealer?
    • Do you check it out quickly or do you wait?
  3. Are you aware of the error causing the check engine light to go off prior to see a mechanic?
  4. When checked out, do they give you a clear explanation of the error/issue?

3 thoughts on “The future of cars, error codes and maintenance

  1. Adam kilpatrick says:

    I run an auto shop in San francisco ca. I personally don’t see a lot of people coming in with faults stored for cooling system problems. The most frequent fault I end up seeing is an oxygen sensor heater fault.

  2. Adam kilpatrick says:

    But people don’t end up doing any research on any issues they have. They drive into the auto repair and get charged to get told what the problem is. If you have a good mechanic he will work with you and explain the repair and why you do or do not need it. How ever we do live in a world of technology and you can plug in a code reader and use you iPhone and get the code does that mean that is the problem “no” computers aren’t always right. I have had a ton of customers come in and say “I replaced the oxygen sensor and that’s what the code was for and its come back on for the oxygen sensor”. I end up asking what they do for a living they usually say some thing in tech and I say would you have me do you job they say no you’re not trained or have the experience “so would you like a trained and experienced auto tech repair your vehicle. All BS aside find some one you trust and that has good yelp reviews. Because for the amount of time you spend trying to repair your own car is better spent doing soming more productive

  3. atkinja says:

    Thanks Adam! My goal is not to have the owner repair themselves, but to facilitate communication and inform the owner. Why does a car have to say “check engine”? That’s so vague. Why can’t it at least state the error code, the details and the possible outcome if not treated. If that’s not the answer then car diagnostics need to be smarter – but that’s a huge hurdle to change.

    I am hoping that people can get informed, feel aware, then quickly, efficiently connect them with a body shop or dealer they “trust” that handles those types of issues for your car. Mind you, that issue could occur anywhere in the USA. So if you are in a different state, your normal trusted guy won’t be there

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