Monday mornings are typically not very productive for me. I typically will hide in my office with the light off to avoid people asking about their latest weekend-induced car problems.
Half of the questions are about sounds they have heard coming from their vehicles, and if I could take a look. The other half are questions about MIL lights that have come on.
When I started, most of the issues were catalyst efficiency codes or EVAP systems. I would not erase the code and advise them they should go to a shop to have the problem fully diagnosed. Most of the people were concerned that they were doing damage to their vehicle. This is a good thing.
Then there is Mike. (The names, places and cars have been changed to protect the names of the innocent. However, most of these stories are true.) He is a good friend, but he is a little paranoid of shops and the ‘OEM Conspiracy.’ He is also a little bit of a ‘skinflint’ looking for new ways to save money. But, he is also concerned that he could be damaging his vehicle by letting a MIL light condition go for too long.
Some Monday morning starts out with one of Mike’s stories about how he was taking the kids to one of their numerous sporting events in the area or going to their cottage on the Portage Lakes. With the skill of a master storyteller, he usually describes how a glowing light came on in the instrument binnacle at the worst possible time during his travels and how the light had put damper on his entire weekend.
I like Mike’s stories. Last week, he faced ABS and stability control system MIL lights that had him flipping through the owner’s manual in a parking lot looking for solace (he could not find my cell phone number). The light stayed on after he started the car after a trip to a Swenson’s Drive In.
The vehicle is not as important to this diagnostic dilemma as was his reaction to the light. In my experience, most people who have an ABS light illuminated are almost in a state of denial. They rationalize that it may go out soon or that they do not need this critical safety feature (these are typically the people who need it the most). Believing it won’t leave them stranded, they typically put off a trip to the shop.
Mike’s reaction to the ABS and Stability MIL lights was appropriate for the situation. The SUV he drives is usually loaded with kids and equipment. He has had to use the stability control system more than once after addressing a distraction in the backseat.
On my advice, he took it to a shop. After some diagnostic time, they found that a large amount of orange soda made its way into the center console and to the yaw and lateral acceleration sensor cluster where it caused an issue with the CAN bus connecting it with the ABS module and other systems.
The shop was able to handle the problem because they had the proper tools and training. The next day the story about him interrogating his kids about the orange soda was very entertaining.