Check Engine Light illustration from

Check Engine Light illustration, courtesy

Colorado ranks 14th most expensive in the CarMD list of U.S. states’ average costs to have a car’s “check engine” light fixed. CarMD, based in Irvine, Calif., based its findings on 2014 data from its large database of on-board diagnostics-related expert repairs and costs, as it writes in a press release. To arrive at its rankings, CarMD analyzed 98,051 repairs for model year 1996 to 2014 vehicles in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

CarMD’s “2015 State Repair Cost Rankings” list points out that the price for the same repair can vary from state to state. For example, “To replace a car’s thermostat in Alaska is $137 on average for parts and labor, whereas the same type of repair in Colorado costs on average $302, including parts and labor,” CarMD writes.

As Zlati Meyer reports for the Detroit Free Press, the most expensive place to have car repairs done in 2014 was Washington, D.C., at an average cost of $467.11. The national average was $390.38, she writes. In Colorado, the average total cost was $415.48, comprising $246.73 for parts, and $168.75 for labor, according to the CarMD chart. That represents an increase of 5.22% over 2013, when Colorado ranked 19th in the list. The least expensive places in 2014 to get a check engine light fixed, according to CarMD, were Nebraska, ranking 49th at $340.36; Montana, ranking 50th at $333.13; and Wyoming, ranking last at $308.76.

CarMD writes that it pays to address small problems:

The least expensive states have a higher percentage of repairs that can be addressed in a matter of minutes versus major parts replacements that require days in the shop. For example, the need for catalytic converter replacements occurred nearly half as frequently in Montana as they did in D.C. A catalytic converter is a pricey part that can fail prematurely if you put off smaller repairs such as spark plug or oxygen sensor replacements.

It is not a good idea to ignore a car’s check engine light, as the light is an alert for any one of several problems, writes The Car Care Council (CCC). “A glowing check engine light doesn”t mean you have to immediately pull the car to the side of the road, but it does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible,” says Rich White, executive director of the CCC. Ignoring the light can lead to costly repairs, such as having to replace the vehicle’s catalytic converter, CCC writes.

Other reasons the check engine light goes on could be a gas cap that is not properly tightened, or engine, transmission, ignition of braking system performance problems, writes Larry H. Miller Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram 104th (LHM), of Denver. “In some instances, this can be a safety hazard,” LHM writes.

Consumer Reports wrote last October that some states were considering an onboard diagnostics system (OBS) that would send a remote signal to state officials, who could then contact drivers who do not have their check engine lights corrected in a certain period of time. This idea is opposed by privacy advocates, but is endorsed by proponents who say it would relieve drivers of having to spend the time and money to have their vehicles emission-tested, and would ensure that such problems were fixed more quickly, CR writes.

Colorado changed its emissions testing program on January 2 of this year, as writes. As a Colorado vehicle owner, when you receive your registration renewal postcard, you will need to bring your vehicle to an Air Car Colorado inspection station if the postcard says: “Emissions Test Required.” Among other changes, the exemption for new vehicles has increased from four to seven model years, because new vehicles are “staying cleaner for longer,” writes. If your Colorado registered vehicle is 8-11 years old, you will need to have its onboard diagnostic computer system checked. If the “check engine” light is turned on, your vehicle will fail inspection and need repairs.

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