Check Engine


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Old 03-08-06, 07:31 AM
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Unhappy Check Engine

The check engine light came on in my 1999 Subaru Forester. I have it in for a scanning today, but the mechanic is talking about a "Catalytic Converter". Hmmm. I know this is extremely expensive. He hasn't completed the scan yet, but here is the question.

If he says it's the catalytic converter, as opposed to something less expensive, like, say the Oxygen Sensor, should I get a second opinion?

Does anyone know the most common thing to go on the car when the check engine light has lit?

Also, to note, I'm getting less miles to the gallon than I used to. Would this be something related?

Thanks for any input,
Jean
 
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Old 03-08-06, 07:58 AM
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First off, the question is, is it under warranty of any kind? If not, you made a mistake by going to a dealership in the first place. They are dramatically more expensive than private shops and they hire highschool kids to do the work. I recently had an argument with a GM dealership where I wanted them to honor a problem that was literally 5 miles outside of warranty period. They argued that they would not unless I had the vehicle serviced at the dealership regularly. I asked them to tell me how many years experience the most experienced tech had that worked there. They told me 4 years. My mechanic has been doing mechanics for 33 years! I rest my case. Back to the point.

The scanning of your car was done in 20 seconds, that's all it takes. The diagnostics might take a little while longer. If you have no warranty, I advise you to take your car to a smaller, private shop that's been around a while. You'll save big $$ and the job gets done just as good, if not better - remember, private shops rely on strong service to attract word-of-mouth customers rather than just a name! As far as what goes most often on you vehicle, that's not something anyone can tell you. Cat converters are subject to failure at mileage over 35,000 for sure. Not that they sould, but its not all that uncommon. You may also have o2 sensor problems, which would definitely cause a loss of MPG. If you've got over 60K miles on it, this might a be a good time for either a full or partial tuneup as well. Again, I would not trust a dealership with this. I had a customer once who owned a firebird. The dealer had quoted him $575 for a tune-up. We did it for $250 and did it perfectly. Also, if money is an issue and your cat is gone, you would have the option of going for an aftermarket unit as well. Those would be much cheaper and a good private shop could get one same day. Good luck. Any more Questions, let em' rip.

Oh, one more thing. Whoever does the work, make sure you express to them that whatever they say is the problem, say the Cat converter, you expect the repairs to solve the engine light problem. Keep this in mind. You can clear an engine light with as little as a palm-pilot handheld. If the problem has NOT been fixed, the light will stay off until the engine experiences the improper readings again in a certain cycle. Maybe 3 times in 9 hours or whatever. This system is designed to limit "false Alarms". Remeber, even if when you pick up your car the light is off, it doesn't necessarily mean the problem is fixed, yet. It will take a week or so of driving engine light free to comfort you.

Jason
Mechanical shop owner
 
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Old 03-08-06, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by wannabefree
If he says it's the catalytic converter, as opposed to something less expensive, like, say the Oxygen Sensor, should I get a second opinion?
Yes
In fact, I would get the exact codes that were retrieved no matter what he says they mean
You can post them up here and there's some good people that could interpret them for you before you procede with any work
Originally Posted by wannabefree
Does anyone know the most common thing to go on the car when the check engine light has lit?
Not that it matters, because each case is different, but often it is a sensor failure (of which there are many)
Originally Posted by wannabefree
Also, to note, I'm getting less miles to the gallon than I used to. Would this be something related?
It very well could be
Many sensor failures would lead to an increase in fuel consumption

The question you didn't ask is is it still under warranty
If you car has less than 100,000 miles it may be
An "O2" sensor or "Cats" are considered emmisions parts, and by law must work for 100,000 miles

It would definatly be worth posting up the codes retrieved here, and seeing if they might be covered under warranty at a dealership
 
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Old 03-08-06, 08:11 AM
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Not sure what in my post made you think I went to the dealer -- but this car is being serviced at a small, locally owned shop that's been in business for many, many years. I almost NEVER take a car to a dealer, because of the reasons you mentioned.

I was just concerned that the first thing this guy talked about was the Catalytic Converter (which is really expensive) and he never mentioned the O2 problem that others, in small conversations, have mentioned is quite likely the problem, seeing as the MPG has deteriorated quickly.

Let you know what he comes back with.
 
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Old 03-08-06, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by wannabefree
Let you know what he comes back with.
The code #s would give us a much better assessment of the situation
There's just too many things the CEL could mean to guess at them
 
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Old 03-08-06, 08:14 AM
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I purchased this car used only 4 months ago. It is not under warranty.

Currently, it has about 96,000 miles on it. I'll see if I can get the codes he came up with.

Thanks a bunch for all the input!
 
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Old 03-08-06, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by wannabefree
I purchased this car used only 4 months ago. It is not under warranty.

Currently, it has about 96,000 miles on it. I'll see if I can get the codes he came up with.

Thanks a bunch for all the input!
Great! Let us know the codes


Also, if you have checked than that's that, but don't assume it's out of warranty
(If I hadn't experience with this I would assume it's out also, but....)
Subaru has spectacular warranties that often transfer with ownership
The emmisions systems covered under law must also be covered regardless of owner

It may not be under the used car dealer's warranty
Or maybe even some of Subaru's warranties
But that emmisions thing...it's gotta go 100K
We'll see what the codes say, but there's a chance....
 
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Old 03-08-06, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by slickshift
Great! Let us know the codes


Also, if you have checked than that's that, but don't assume it's out of warranty
(If I hadn't experience with this I would assume it's out also, but....)
Subaru has spectacular warranties that often transfer with ownership
The emmisions systems covered under law must also be covered regardless of owner

It may not be under the used car dealer's warranty
Or maybe even some of Subaru's warranties
But that emmisions thing...it's gotta go 100K
We'll see what the codes say, but there's a chance....
Actually, I believe the federal law regarding the Performance warranty of emissions systems mandates that for all emissions-related parts, the warranty period is 2 years or 24k mi. Except for the Cat converter, ECM and OBDII, which is 8 years or 80K mi. Also, the federal warranty is void if the consumer cannot reproduce proof of scheduled maintanence done at each of the manufacturers required intervals.
 
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Old 03-08-06, 01:38 PM
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The most common thing to go on the car when engine light comes on is a Oxygen Sensor. Need codes to be sure.
 
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Old 03-08-06, 01:58 PM
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Originally Posted by our442
The most common thing to go on the car when engine light comes on is a Oxygen Sensor. Need codes to be sure.
I don't see how you could possibly make that claim. Engine lights come on when certain conditions are met with a faulty sensor. It could be any sensor at all. I have not seen O2 sensors being any more prominent than others
 
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Old 03-08-06, 03:41 PM
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Unhappy

The mechanic said "Catalytic Converter is bad" Figures. Had this (*%^&# car for 4 months. Anyhoot, I'm at work and don't have the codes with me, but the mechanic gave me the report with the codes on it. I'll post them later tonight or tomorrow am. Please check back! I'd love to hear your input on this.

So far, you've been more than helpful
 
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Old 03-09-06, 04:00 AM
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the warranty covered on emision equipment seems to vary from different manufacturers some are 100,000 miles some are not but they are usually covered far longer than the standard warranty on most vehicles and would atleast be worth checking into to see if it could be possibly covered by warranty.
dont assume that they want to know the maintence records or if original owner etc. alot of dealers often do repairs under warranty if they can, while they could probably just as easily not repair a vehicle under warranty. part of it is just good customer service and whether they wish to do future business with you or not.
 
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Old 03-09-06, 04:24 AM
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I don't know what your definition of "extremely expensive" is, but a complete replacement catalytic system can be had for less than $300 delivered (not including labor for installation, of course):

http://www.autopartswarehouse.com/ap...99&modelid=697

Note there are also "universal" cats that replace both front and rear units for considerably less (but require cutting/welding to fit to vehicle).

Might want to check around with your local parts houses (Auto Zone, CarQuest, NAPA, Advanced) to see what replacement cats go for.

And something nobody has asked yet - How long have you been using this shop? Do you trust them? Have you ever been dissatisfied with a repair or had to return for more work that did not fix a problem?
 
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Old 03-09-06, 06:02 AM
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1999 Subaru Code

Okay, as far as I can tell, the code is DTC P0420

As far as quotes to get it repaired, I haven't gone there yet. This guy quoted $700 for the part alone. He won't be fixing it! I'll go after-market for the part and likely have a different mechanic do the work.

This guy got his $64.00 for doing the testing. I have a different mechanic that does work from his own garage and charges far less per work hour. He just didn't have the testing equipment to see what was wrong.

Okay, also testing mechanic said we might just be able to run a "cleaner" through the system and it might help "revitalize" the Cat Conv. Ever hear of this one?

Thanks, again.
 
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Old 03-09-06, 07:00 AM
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P0420 is caalyst effiency below threshold( bank 1) I think all it needs is a good shot of cleaner and a good long drive. (This is juist my opinion.)
 
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Old 03-09-06, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by our442
P0420 is caalyst effiency below threshold( bank 1) I think all it needs is a good shot of cleaner and a good long drive. (This is juist my opinion.)
What kind of "cleaner" are you talking about?
 
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Old 03-09-06, 10:45 AM
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First of all, Subaru did not make the cat and downpipe one piece for the 99 Forester. So, its just a converter you are buying. Subaru lists it as $324.78 and should be no more than $130 in labor. The book calls for 1 hour, but you've got to give a little bit. This is for a SOHC. If you have DOHC, its considerably more. I think they only used a rear cat in the DOHC engine that year. Nonetheless, aftermarket should be hundreds less. I dont' know why a shop would even quote you on a dealer part on that year car, unless they were gonna buy a/m and charge you new.

The DTC code you retrieved is indeed catalyst efficiency below threshold. When this occurs, it is MOST often an exhaust leak. Probably at the flange where the downpipe and cat meet. You could try cleaner, but its doubtful it would work. Before changing the cat, shops should verify for certain there are no exhaust leaks. I've seen that code pop before and a simple $5 gasket takes care of it!! Good luck.
 
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Old 03-09-06, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by wannabefree
What kind of "cleaner" are you talking about?
He's talking about Catalytic converter cleaner. http://www.jcwhitney.com/autoparts/P...001133/c-10101

Not likely to help though, usually when build up or dirty emissions controls are to blame, more codes will pop, like EGR codes and O2 sensor inefficiencies codes.
 
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Old 03-09-06, 04:54 PM
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Be sure there are no exhaust leaks in front of cat conv toward manifold. that can also set the code. Local exhaust shop can save you tons on new converter or like one of the others said, you can probably order your own and change it out. Scrap yards will pay fair money for your old converter also.
 
 

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