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Number of reasons for ‘check engine’ light

This driver has spent months trying to figure out why their 'check engine' light keeps coming back on.

Published June 4, 2012
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Q: I have a 2008 Saturn Astra, 5-Door, automatic. The car is perfect for my job and I enjoy driving it. It has been back for the occasional recall item, but the main issue is a consistent “check engine” (CE) light.

It all started at 75,000 km and I now have 120,000 km on the car. I’ve replaced the fuel filler, oxygen sensor, map sensor, rocker cover diaphragm replaced, ECM (engine control module) and other items. The check engine light will stay off for a week or two, but returns.

The dealer checks for codes but cannot seem to determine the exact cause. Last year, GM Canada had the car for a week and they determined the cause of the CE light was the vacuum portion of the brake booster. That was replaced but the light came back on after I drove the car about 10 km.

Subsequently, GM Canada techs had the car for another week. They then replaced the intake manifold with an upgraded version that included new injectors. The CE light returned within a day afterward.

I’m currently waiting for another call from the dealer to bring the car back in. It has taken them over a year to attempt to diagnose this problem.

Is there another source that I could use to efficiently find a solution for this problem?

A: Electrical Engineer Eli Melnick of Start Auto Electric in Toronto (www.startauto.com), which specializes in solving “hard-to-fix” problems, replies:

This is a tough one. It appears that both parties are co-operating, yet the vehicle is still not fixed. The Astra is based on a European Opel with a 1.8L engine that is not commonly seen around here and hence there is lack of repair experience on it. From the reader’s comments, I am guessing that the check engine light is being triggered by a lean-running code, but it would be interesting to hear the dealer’s side of the story.

I checked and I am not sure that CAMVAP (Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan) would help in this instance due to the high mileage. Even if the manufacturer could be forced to buy the vehicle back, the cost of usage that the owner is responsible for would far exceed the value of the car.

My advice is to leave the vehicle with the dealer for as long as it takes for them to repair it. Even a month is not unreasonable. Ask them to have the service manager or the shop foreman drive the car home to verify that it is in fact fixed. It is imperative to resolve this issue because starting next year, a new version of the Drive Clean program will be in place and a vehicle with a check engine light on will fail the test.

I commend your reader for their patience and I believe that they will ultimately be rewarded for it.

Vehicle Image
    • Price: $24,495

    MSRP

    • Price: $39,675
    • Price: $16,695
    • Price: $36,900
    • Engine: 1.4 I4 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: FWD
    • Cylinder: 4
    • Transmission Speed: 5

    Performance

    • Engine: 2.0 I4 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: AWD
    • Cylinder: 4
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • Engine: 2.0 I4 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: FWD
    • Cylinder: 4
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • Engine: 1.6 I4 G
    • Horsepower: Not defined
    • Transmission: MT
    • Drive Type: FWD
    • Cylinder: 4
    • Transmission Speed: 6
    • City: 7.1
    • Highway: 5.7
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 11/11

    Fuel Economy

    • City: 10.9
    • Highway: 7.5
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 15/15
    • City: 8.1
    • Highway: 5.7
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 14/14
    • City: 8.2
    • Highway: 6
    • Fuel Type: Gas
    • Fuel Tank Low/High: 13/13
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes

    Safety

    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Airbags: Yes
    • ABS Brakes: Yes
    • Traction Control: Yes
    • Stability Control: Yes
    • Safety Rating: -
    • Child Sensor: Yes
    • Park Distance Control: Yes
    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: No
    • Power Seats: No
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: No
    • Climate Control: No
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes

    Comfort & Convenience

    • Sunroof: Yes
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: Yes
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Climate Control: Yes
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: No
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: No
    • Power Seats: No
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: No
    • Keyless Entry: No
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: No
    • Climate Control: No
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Sunroof: No
    • Air Conditioning: Yes
    • Power Windows: Yes
    • Power Door Locks: Yes
    • Leather Seats: No
    • Power Seats: No
    • Music System: Yes
    • Navigation System: No
    • Cruise: Yes
    • Keyless Entry: Yes
    • Rain Sensing Vipers: No
    • Heated Seats: No
    • Climate Control: Yes
    • Steering Wheel Controls: Yes
    • Power Mirrors: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 4
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 4
    • Power Adjustable Seats: No
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes

    Interior

    • Max. Seating: 5
    • Number of Doors: 4
    • Seats: 5
    • Power Adjustable Seats: Yes
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 5
    • Number of Doors: 4
    • Seats: 5
    • Power Adjustable Seats: No
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Max. Seating: 4
    • Number of Doors: 2
    • Seats: 4
    • Power Adjustable Seats: No
    • Specialty Seats: Yes
    • Interior: Yes
    • Leather Seats: Yes
    • Power Seats: Yes
    • Heated Seats: Yes
    • Awards: -

    Awards

    • Awards: -
    • Awards: -
    • Awards: -

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