Check Engine Light Bulb Itself Out
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  1. #1
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    Check Engine Light Bulb Itself Out

    I need help. When my mother bought this car for me about 3 years ago, I had complained that the Check Engine light was on. So what does the mechanic do? TAKE THE BULB OUT! I'm wondering, is this an expensive job? How long would it take? I've failed inspection every time because of this one issue

    Thanks,
    Mark

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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    I need help. When my mother bought this car for me about 3 years ago, I had complained that the Check Engine light was on. So what does the mechanic do? TAKE THE BULB OUT! I'm wondering, is this an expensive job? How long would it take? I've failed inspection every time because of this one issue
    That may be a bit of a challenge. There's no bulb to take out; what there is, is a surface mount LED soldered/bonded to the printed circuit board. Sadly, people have been known to simply chisel it off the board. Repairing this takes soldering skills that are beyond many people - if the circuit board itself hasn't been irretrievably damaged. Worst case, you might have to replace the instrument cluster.

    It IS possible that he managed to simply tape it over; but you won't know until you take it apart.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotts13 View Post
    That may be a bit of a challenge. There's no bulb to take out; what there is, is a surface mount LED soldered/bonded to the printed circuit board. Sadly, people have been known to simply chisel it off the board. Repairing this takes soldering skills that are beyond many people - if the circuit board itself hasn't been irretrievably damaged. Worst case, you might have to replace the instrument cluster.

    It IS possible that he managed to simply tape it over; but you won't know until you take it apart.
    Well I've failed inspection because the bulb failed. I have a 2000 VW Passat and they tried to "communicate" with the dashboard lights by sticking a key of some sort into the door of the car and could not communicate, which is why I failed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    Well I've failed inspection because the bulb failed. I have a 2000 VW Passat and they tried to "communicate" with the dashboard lights by sticking a key of some sort into the door of the car and could not communicate, which is why I failed.
    Most likely under the dashboard, rather than into the door - an OBDII reader. I'm not sure if breaking off the LED would cause a communication error; it may be that something else is wrong and that's WHY they disabled the light.

    If it was me, I'd go back to the mechanic/dealer/whatever who "fixed" it, tell the car isn't inspect-able, and see if you can get them to 'fess up.

    BTW, you were defrauded; it may be the seller or the mechanic has broken laws. You're not allowed to conceal defects in a product you sell. Selling the car with a known problem is one thing; disabling a warning is something else.

    If the problem was safety-related (like the ABS module) that's MUCH worse. Why don't you detail for us the exact sequence of event regarding buying this car and them disabling the light?

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotts13 View Post
    Most likely under the dashboard, rather than into the door - an OBDII reader. I'm not sure if breaking off the LED would cause a communication error; it may be that something else is wrong and that's WHY they disabled the light.

    If it was me, I'd go back to the mechanic/dealer/whatever who "fixed" it, tell the car isn't inspect-able, and see if you can get them to 'fess up.

    BTW, you were defrauded; it may be the seller or the mechanic has broken laws. You're not allowed to conceal defects in a product you sell. Selling the car with a known problem is one thing; disabling a warning is something else.

    If the problem was safety-related (like the ABS module) that's MUCH worse. Why don't you detail for us the exact sequence of event regarding buying this car and them disabling the light?

    I honestly don't even know how the car was acquired, but it was given to me at no cost. My mom's boyfriend at the time was able to get the car from some guy for cheap (this car has tons of miles on it). It was riddled with problems that I had to get fixed (Catalytic Converter, massive amount of leaks, just crap). The last time I failed inspection I took it to a local NJ Inspection certified garage. They took about several weeks to get me a sticker, told me they fixed a bunch of stuff, and I paid over a grand. However, they did not fix the actual check engine light. 2 years go by and I fail again. I now have another leak and this check engine bull**** that I have to worry about. I wish someone could give me the name of a garage in northern NJ that could fix both problems for me.

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    Sorry, for some reason - probably early senility - I misread your first post as "3 months ago" not "3 years ago." Strike what I said about approaching the seller, obviously.

    As far as fixing it, you're likely going to need a new instrument cluster. There are a lot of things that can and do leak on these cars, what KIND of leak do you think you have?

    For as much of a bad rap as VW "stealerships" get, there are some good ones, and if you have a difficult problem (electronics, vacuum/PCV system) that might be the place to get them resolved - if you're not an amateur mechanic yourself.

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    Quote Originally Posted by scotts13 View Post
    Sorry, for some reason - probably early senility - I misread your first post as "3 months ago" not "3 years ago." Strike what I said about approaching the seller, obviously.

    As far as fixing it, you're likely going to need a new instrument cluster. There are a lot of things that can and do leak on these cars, what KIND of leak do you think you have?

    For as much of a bad rap as VW "stealerships" get, there are some good ones, and if you have a difficult problem (electronics, vacuum/PCV system) that might be the place to get them resolved - if you're not an amateur mechanic yourself.
    It's an oil leak. A little over a month and a half and it's empty. I took it to a dealership last time I had a leak and it took me well over several grand to fix the leaks I had. I was trying to stay away from the dealership as I've only budgeted about 800 dollars to fix these problems (leak and engine light)

    I'm trying to start learning how to fix stuff on my own. I bought a bunch of stuff that'll allow me to do my own oil changes, and that's a huge step for me (I bought a ramp, oil filter wrench, funnel, drain pan, and I already had a massive amount of tools). I also installed my own hood support the other day thanks to this board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    I'm trying to start learning how to fix stuff on my own. I bought a bunch of stuff that'll allow me to do my own oil changes, and that's a huge step for me (I bought a ramp, oil filter wrench, funnel, drain pan, and I already had a massive amount of tools). I also installed my own hood support the other day thanks to this board.
    Kudos. Decades ago, i used to do all my own wrenching, and I'm getting back to it now. Example: dealer wanted about $400 to replace an oxygen sensor on my 2000; doing it myself was $160 and 15 minutes.

    Quick oil change tip: If you can get to the drain plug without removing the belly pan, you're making a medium-to-large mistake.

    Also, if you wind up replacing the instrument cluster with a new one, you're going to chew up the better part of that $800. You use a new cluster so it can be programmed with the correct mileage for your car, and there are other things that have to be programmed by the dealer as well. Check if your state will allow you to install a used cluster, and add a sticker to your car stating the mileage is incorrect. Many won't.

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    Edge Motors is in Haverstraw or Nyack I think. Not too far from northern NJ.

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    The light could be just taped over with black electrical tape.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrgreek2002 View Post
    The light could be just taped over with black electrical tape.
    Of course - covered that on my first post. But always best to be ready for the worst.

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    hold on. nobody here has explored the possibility that the connector is just broken. if you are not able to communicate with the ecu, this is considered a FAIL situation. fo to your local autozone, or see if you can even scan the car itself. you may just have a wiring problem, NOT someone else's fault.

    now, go under your hood, and unplug your MAF sensor. this is by far the EASIEST way to throw a hard check engine light. if it comes on, we can say for sure your CEL led is fine, and the issue lies elsewhere.

    i seriously doubt that the CEL could have been disabled. just make the car throw a code first to see what will happen.

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    Assuming the circuit is fine and that you have some soldering skills, it is possible to replace that that bulb.

    It is a PLCC2 LED which you can get online for very cheap. (10 cent each + shipping)
    http://www.westfloridacomponents.com...Category_Code=

    I had to replace my ABS and Brake LEDs when the previous owner took them off when the ABS module was bad. :/

    Follow Steps 1-2 for Cluster removal
    http://www.impconcepts.com/vwpassat2...stallguide.htm

    Inspect for Black Tape / Removed CEL LED

    If LED missing... learn to solder Surface Mount LED (PLCC2) from youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqNJR2vFHMk

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    Quote Originally Posted by sipes216 View Post
    hold on. nobody here has explored the possibility that the connector is just broken. if you are not able to communicate with the ecu, this is considered a FAIL situation. fo to your local autozone, or see if you can even scan the car itself. you may just have a wiring problem, NOT someone else's fault.

    now, go under your hood, and unplug your MAF sensor. this is by far the EASIEST way to throw a hard check engine light. if it comes on, we can say for sure your CEL led is fine, and the issue lies elsewhere.

    i seriously doubt that the CEL could have been disabled. just make the car throw a code first to see what will happen.
    I need you to explain this to me in layman's terms, because I have the mechanical inclination of a chipmunk. Thank you for your effort though, it's very appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by denbyu View Post
    Assuming the circuit is fine and that you have some soldering skills, it is possible to replace that that bulb.

    It is a PLCC2 LED which you can get online for very cheap. (10 cent each + shipping)
    http://www.westfloridacomponents.com...Category_Code=

    I had to replace my ABS and Brake LEDs when the previous owner took them off when the ABS module was bad. :/

    Follow Steps 1-2 for Cluster removal
    http://www.impconcepts.com/vwpassat2...stallguide.htm

    Inspect for Black Tape / Removed CEL LED

    If LED missing... learn to solder Surface Mount LED (PLCC2) from youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqNJR2vFHMk
    I have the tools to remove it but I'm too afraid I'll mess something up.

  17. #16
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    Oh and by the way, the local NJ Emissions garage that I went to said that he'd have to take out the entire steering wheel assembly to replace the light.

    What are Torx screwdrivers?

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    There is 2 ways to bypass a CEL on an Emission test.
    - DONT RIP IT OFF its a PITA to replace them so definitely not worth it.
    - What is the cause of the CEL (fix and CEL goes Off)
    - Before taking the Emission Test Turn the Light off with a handheld OBD Scanner or your local garage and drive your car for about 30-45min. once you go for the test it will show that the system is ready and should not fail you.

    TORX BITS


  19. #18
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    To check function of the dash warning lights...

    Put key in ignition
    Switch key to ON (not START)
    The warning lights should all come on for a second to show that they work.

    Some auto parts stores (AutoZone by me) will do a free OBDII diagnostic scan for you and give you a printout of the results. Call around and see who in your area provides this for free.

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    Sounds to me like that just to be on the safe side and not make things worse you may be doing the right thing having a mechanic (you trust?) do the work for you.
    Here are a couple bits that will help you at the mechanic-
    If it comes to it and your CEL has been *disabled* -
    1.You DON'T have to remove the steering wheel to get the cluster out- the 'repair book' just says you do. It comes out easy enough, 15-20 minutes if you take your time.
    2. Your 00' model doesn't have an immobilizer so You can buy a used cluster and just plug it in- to avoid trouble try and find one from the same year with the same engine, etc.. or else you'll need to find someone who understands how to recode the cluster to read the correct speed/rpm etc..
    Get a look at it and report back. .

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    I kind of now want to try and do this myself. But I have several questions.

    When the INSPECTION FACILITY checks for an engine light, do they actually try to communicate with the light or do they try and turn the light on , and check to see if it lights up? If they do, that gives me some hope that the douchebags just put a piece of tape over it. However, I've taken it to many people and tried to actually pay for a sticker, and I feel like anyone can easily bypass that step. However, no one will do that for me. Anyways..

    I feel that the steps given in that link that someone posted to remove the cluster are simple enough, but is there anything that can be done that would actually make the problem worse? Do I have to disconnect the battery? Do I have to reprogram anything? I'm planning on doing this next weekend. You guys have inspired me. How much would a brand new cluster cost? I was going to pay someone $150 to repair the light but if it costs less for a new cluster, I'd spring for that. Any information/reservations I should have before delving into this would be very helpful.

    Thank you again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in Chicago View Post
    To check function of the dash warning lights...

    Put key in ignition
    Switch key to ON (not START)
    The warning lights should all come on for a second to show that they work.

    Some auto parts stores (AutoZone by me) will do a free OBDII diagnostic scan for you and give you a printout of the results. Call around and see who in your area provides this for free.
    The light does not show up when I try this. I haven't seen the check engine light since I first got the car. What can Autozone tell me? Whether there is an actual working light there?

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    I don't think Autozone can specifically tell you if there is a actual working light, but I think they can generally tell you if there is communication with the car's ECU and if your car has any engine codes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    How much would a brand new cluster cost? I was going to pay someone $150 to repair the light but if it costs less for a new cluster, I'd spring for that. Any information/reservations I should have before delving into this would be very helpful.
    If you have someone who can repair a broken-off LED for $150, go for it (after you check for tape) A new cluster is about $500. Plus programming fees.

  25. #24
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    Or you can buy a used cluster off Ebay for $40. There are a few vendors that sell them with a 30 or 90 day warranty. So if you get it and it has a problem they'll send you another.
    The 'test' for a check engine light is pretty simple, as mentioned: Put the key in and click it over to the 1st/acc position (don't start)-
    Now look at the dash.
    No light?
    Then at minimum you'll need to take the cluster out or take it somewhere for a deeper diagnosis.
    As mentioned, you have no immobilizer ( key recognition-anti-theft) so you can just buy a similar 99-2001 Cluster and plug it in and drive.
    I've bought several off ebay, never had a broken one yet.

  26. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    I kind of now want to try and do this myself. But I have several questions.

    When the INSPECTION FACILITY checks for an engine light, do they actually try to communicate with the light or do they try and turn the light on , and check to see if it lights up? If they do, that gives me some hope that the douchebags just put a piece of tape over it. However, I've taken it to many people and tried to actually pay for a sticker, and I feel like anyone can easily bypass that step. However, no one will do that for me. Anyways..

    I feel that the steps given in that link that someone posted to remove the cluster are simple enough, but is there anything that can be done that would actually make the problem worse? Do I have to disconnect the battery? Do I have to reprogram anything? I'm planning on doing this next weekend. You guys have inspired me. How much would a brand new cluster cost? I was going to pay someone $150 to repair the light but if it costs less for a new cluster, I'd spring for that. Any information/reservations I should have before delving into this would be very helpful.

    Thank you again.
    Everyone's been very helpful in this thread but I need someone to answer some of the quoted questions. If I disconnect the cluster, do I need to reprogram it or something when I reconnect it? I'm hoping this is really as easy as it looks like. I saw another instruction sheet showing the process of taking out the steering wheel, it looks pretty scary. I also need to know how easy is it to screw this up?

    I'm going to buy some Torx bits this week. The mechanic that would do the work for me for $150 wants me to leave my car all day on a weekday, and I just can't do that. Is it possible to drive the car without the cluster? I feel like I can disconnect it and if its not black tape, I can bring it over to this mechanic and he can quickly sodder whatever needs to be soddered for a cheaper price.

    Thanks.

  27. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by drexlerm1 View Post
    Everyone's been very helpful in this thread but I need someone to answer some of the quoted questions. If I disconnect the cluster, do I need to reprogram it or something when I reconnect it?
    No, you should be able to just pop it in and out. As far as driving without it... I'm pretty sure the cops would take a dim view of you driving without a speedometer, but as long as the car doesn't have an immobilizer - well, I'm not sure but I don't see why not.

    Please hold in mind as you read suggestions for a used cluster that you normally can't program the correct mileage into a cluster with more than a few miles on it; and some states take a dim view of "tampered" (inaccurate) odometers. That's why they ask for the mileage when you re-register, and check it when the car is inspected. Just sayin'

  28. #27
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    The reason for the trouble code scan is to see what is wrong with the engine that's causing the car not to pass emissions testing. Making the CEL light work or not work is academic. The emissions testing places hook up a scan tool and read the engine computer to determine weather the car is running properly or dumping unnecessary pollution into the air. That light was taped over or clipped out for a reason. The thing you'll ultimately need to address is that reason.

    Sounds like you're going through a lot of trouble to get the CEL light working, and when it does... you still won't pass.

  29. #28
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    Bump.. I need as much advice as possible on this project, as I'm going to be delving into it this weekend. I don't know where the fuse box is, according to the guide that someone posted, it's at the end of the dash and has a pop out component. I can't find that part in my 2000 VW Passat V6 with the little amount of looking I did. ANY advice on anything regarding taking out a cluster would be great.

    Thanks again.

  30. #29
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    The fuse box is behind the black plastic cover on the driver's end of the dash. Open the door, and there it is. There is a slot on the edge that you can put your key into to pop it off. It uses snap connectors, and may take a little bit of tugging to get it loose. There is not a fuse for that one single led, though.

    When testing, the device they use communicates with the cluster (among other components) and requests the light be turned on. It does not communicate directly w the LED, nor can it tell if the LED is physically present or not.

    You should disconnect the battery negative as a safety precaution. You will not need to reprogram anything if you pull the cluster and then put it back in. A new cluster costs way more than $150.00. You should pull the cluster apart yourself and at least check for tape over the light before shelling out $$$ only to find that there's tape in there!

    Since you have a 2000, you may or may not have an Immobilizer. The cluster is part of that system, and the car will not run w/o the cluster if you do have an Immo. My '00 does not have Immo, but others here have one. But, if you pull the cluster and want to drive, you can just plug it back in and slide it into the opening to make the drive.

    You DO NOT have to take the steering wheel off to remove the cluster. I've had mine in & out of the car multiple times when swapping in a W8 cluster. You could also go the route of a used cluster, but dealing w the mileage difference is not a simple process legally, and there are few tools that can change the mileage.

    If you do find that the LED has been removed, soldering that size of surface mount component can be done by nearly any electronics shop, and for well less than $150.00.

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    Follow the write up on the www.impconcepts.com web site for the VW 1.8 Turbo link on the right side of the home page. I have their LED tach mod. I removed and then re-installed the dash unit by myself. Only tool I needed in addition to torx drivers was a flex socket driver; essentially a screw driver with a bendable shaft and a socket end to allow placing screw driver or torx bits. You should get your self a torx driver set; bits set and handled set. Sizes T-20 and T-25 are all throughout VW/Audi products. To a lesser extent T-15 and T-27 and T-30.

    Buy yourself a Bentley repair manual - CD or hard cover. CD is searchable. Hard covered manual has advantages over the CD version.

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