Temecula Auto Repair and Radiator / 2003 Toyota Camry LE
  2003 Toyota Camry LE

We have a 2003 Toyota Camry LE that has been serviced on a regular basis. On Thursday my Check Engine light came on while driving down the highway. Pulled car off road, checked car manual. Manual stated that Check Engine Light can come on if gas tank is empty, gas tank cap is loose or could be problem with throttle. Gas tank was below 1/4 of tank so I filled the gas tank. Car does not drive any different than before the Check Engine light came on, but the Check Engine light remains on. When I went to fill the gas tank I noticed an object was lodged in the emergency brake area - could this have triggered the Check Engine Light? If I need to bring my car to your shop, what is the initial cost for doing a checkup/diagnostic on the toyota?

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2010-11-19 19:19
You are very wise to stop and read the manual. One of the most disappointing experiences we can have here at the shop is to have a vehicle towed-in with serious damage because someone ignored a warning light and continued to drive their car. Now about the whole gas cap issue; In 1996 the government became concerned about raw fuel vapor escaping into the atmosphere and laws were enacted which made it mandatory for new vehicles to have a built-in monitoring system that would occasionally check the security of the fuel system. This system is smart enough to know if you've inadvertently left the fuel cap loose or off altogether and it switches the "Check Engine" light on to alert you of the problem. Typically however, once you check and tighten the cap, the system should then recognize that the problem has been solved and the light will go off. With all of that said, there are still a great number of different potential failures in the computer system that will cause an illumination of the warning light and since your light is still on, there's something else wrong. You don't "feel" anything wrong because the system is effective enough and compensates well enough that it seems fairly normal. DON'T LET THIS STOP YOU FROM GETTING IT FIXED! Greater damage can occur to other components if the problem is ignored indefinitely, and although we make our living by repairing/servicing cars we sure prefer not to repair things that might have been preventable! Oh and no, trinkets stuck in the parking brake area will not cause the light to come on. As for cost, well I don't think it wise to discuss that here. If I were to say it would be 40 bucks then the next person who reads this might assume that would cover all diagnostics regardless of complexity. If I said 200 bucks then someone might assume it's too much without understanding each situation is different. What I CAN tell you is that we purchase and employ the best equipment and best people that we can find. Ours are experienced, career-minded, ASE certified technicians that are expensive, but highly skilled. We find it's better, less stressful for everyone, AND less costly to have a highly skilled technician diagnose problems quickly and correctly than it is to have a lesser-skilled mechanic take shots at it! If you'd like, please feel free to give our service desk a call and we'll see if we can help you with it. Thanks for writing!
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Basics of California Smog Check Program

What is a Directed Vehicle? In order to comply with state law, the California Department of Consumer Affairs along with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (DCA/BAR) directs a portion of the vehicles registered in Enhanced Smog Check Areas of California to Test-Only and Gold Shield stations. These vehicles are called Directed Vehicles. Enhanced Areas are those parts of the state with "serious" ozone pollution problems.

What is a Test-Only?
 Test-Only facilities are licensed Smog Check stations that, by law, are only allowed to test cars; they cannot repair or service them. Any needed repairs must be performed elsewhere at either a Smog Check station designated as a Test-Repair or Gold Shield station.  Because of this unbiased status, test only stations are certified to smog all vehicles in Califronia.

What is a Gold Shield station? A Gold Shield station has met certain performance criteria and is now authorized to inspect Directed Vehicles. Gold Shield stations can perform State-Subsidized repairs under the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP). So basically Gold Shield stations perform the same test inspections as a Test Only station but, if your vehicle fails at their shop, they can charge for repairs.  If the state of California finds that a Gold Shield station is doing anything illegal or dishonest, there directed vehicle status will be pulled indefinetely. 

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