Last week, the dreaded check engine light lit up in my car on my way back to work. I had just taken my break, which I go back home for, and had noticed my car wasn’t driving properly. It wasn’t accelerating very fast, and it was jolting slightly upon braking. Thankfully, I only had to panic for five minutes while I drove to work, but I had a sinking feeling in my stomach as I saw dollar signs flashing next to that light.
What to do?
Of course, my first thought is to call my dad. I have written before about how he is a somewhat a jack of all trades, especially when it comes to computers or cars. If one of our cars was ever making an odd noise, not running correctly, or needed some routine maintenance, my mom and I would alert him to it and he would check it out.
I’m really missing that right now. Being several thousand miles away kind of limits what he can do, but he tried to help me out as much as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any other friends or relatives as car savvy as he is, but I do have the internet.
Once I got back to work, I got to researching possible issues. Everyone recommended going to AutoZone for a free code reading. Just in case you aren’t aware, they do offer it for free, which is nice when you don’t feel like spending money on an OBDII reader. I heard that Advanced Auto Parts also offers this service, but the two stores were actually across from each other and AutoZone was easier to get to.
This all started Tuesday. I waited for R to get home, and we left. What happens? The light shuts off fairly soon after we get going. I felt a temporary sense of relief. We continued on, just in case the light came back on, but also because it was recommended to get some fuel injection cleaner. I hadn’t filled up in about three weeks, but who knows. It was only about $6.
Not so fast…
My car was riding fine, but that sinking feeling kept persisting, for good reason. As I’m leaving work for good on Friday, the light comes back on. R and I made a Valentine’s date at AutoZone yet again. This time, the light didn’t go off, but my car was driving somewhat better. I think my car likes R better.
In any case, they were nice enough to come out in the freezing cold, get the codes, and print out the diagnosis for us. They didn’t try and sell us on anything, which was quite a relief. It also helped that the guy had no clue what the codes meant. Luckily for me, other people on Civic forums had done quite a bit of research!
The main issue was P1298, the electronic load detector (ELD). Yeah, I had never heard of it either. Apparently, it’s located in the underhood fuse box. Oh joy, I totally want to mess with my car’s electrical components! The other code was for a faulty TP sensor. After doing some more research, my dad concluded that the ELD being broken was likely causing the TP sensor to go as well.
Going the DIY route
There was actually a great video on how to replace the ELD, which made me feel comfortable attempting the DIY route. It literally seemed to take the guy maybe three minutes to complete the fix. What was the sense in going to a mechanic over that? The two options were getting the part directly from Honda (as it is a dealer part), or ordering it off of eBay.
I decided to choose convenience and pay more for the part, versus ordering it off of eBay and paying less. Why? When it came down to it, I wanted to fix this issue ASAP. The estimated delivery of the part on eBay was Thursday to next Monday, and that was too long to wait. I was getting scared to drive my car, and since R needs to be at work a good 2 hours before me, and usually leaves an hour or two after me, having one car was not going to work.
So we called Honda up Sunday morning, and they had the ELD in stock. It would be $44, which wasn’t a horrible price. For a car that has given me virtually no issues in the five years I’ve had it, I could spend $44 to hopefully get this check engine light to turn off.
We got the part, arrived home, and excitedly went to work. We quickly realized it was not going to be as easy of a fix as we initially thought. It’s hard to explain, but the ELD connects into a plug, and the plug’s wire didn’t have any slack whatsoever, so we couldn’t lift it up enough to fit the ELD onto it.
Mind you, it was around 23 degrees outside, I was freezing, and about an hour had passed. We agreed to take a break, go inside, and check some other sources out. We seemed to be in the minority who didn’t have enough slack. R was determined to get this to work; at this point, my car would need to be towed. He went back outside and I continued reading.
He was out there for another thirty minutes at least, just tinkering with everything. He finally came back inside yelling “YES! YES YES YES!! I DID IT!” He also included phrases such as, “I am the MAN!” He was really thrilled, in case you didn’t get that. I was also thrilled, because it meant that our efforts and decision to DIY paid off. I wasn’t looking forward to possibly having my car towed.
I went back outside with him to finish the installation, and then I nervously started my car. The check engine light was off! R was fist pumping at this point. We were so happy it worked. I took my car for a spin around the block, and it seemed to be back to normal. It wasn’t taking 20 seconds to get from 10mph to 20mph, and it was braking smoothly.
We accomplished a lot yesterday. Normally, I like to save money however I can, and I’m certainly not someone who recommends going to a dealership for anything, but in this case, it worked out. I paid a premium to have access to the part immediately, and I don’t regret it. It helps that it wasn’t an expensive fix, but I’m sure if I turned to a mechanic, it would have been a couple of hundred dollars.
I’m glad R found it in him to persist. He ended up using a really tiny screwdriver he found in a kit that allowed him enough room. As he said, “it just look a little ingenuity.” I’m still making an appointment to take my car in so it can be looked over, as I would rather not have any other issues surprise me. Hopefully nothing else is wrong!
Next time you’re attempting a DIY fix, don’t give up! It was really tempting to throw the towel in, especially when we knew what we had to do – it was just a matter of getting the right tool to accomplish it.
How comfortable are you going the DIY route with your car? Would you have attempted this fix? What’s the last car repair you had?