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Check Engine lights cost more to fix in 2023, CarMD data shows

Jun 14, 2023

CarMD sells an OBDII device for vehicle repair shops and car owners that plugs into a car's diagnostic port. Because the device submits data about the vehicle in question to the CarMD database, and because CarMD says it's device is the #1 seller on the market, the company gets alerted to millions of instances annually as to what's going wrong with America's cars. Since 2011, the findings have been marshaled into a yearly report called Vehicle Health Index. The latest one is out, covering 2022. Among the general trends that will surprise no one, owners are holding onto their vehicles longer and doing more of their own work because repair costs have increased on average. According to the data, despite labor costs going down 0.5%, parts cost 4.7% more on average, the average fix leading to a bill for $403. The typical cost in 2021 was calculated to be $393.

Nevertheless, the report shows the average repair cost for many of the top ten recommended Check Engine Light fixes either staying even or going down by as much as $42 compared to 2021. Only three costs rose, those by no more than $5.

The first five fixes have occupied those positions for at least the last five years. Orders to replace the catalytic converter come first — and this has little or nothing to do with catalytic converter thefts, since no one needs an OBDII reader to figure out the cat is out. After that, the next-most-common suggestions are to replace the oxygen sensor, ignition coil and spark plugs, and mass airflow sensor, and to tighten or replace the gas cap. Emissions mechanicals show up again in sixth place with the recommendation to replace the EVAP canister. CarMD considers replacing ignition coils and spark plugs a separate recommendation than just replacing the coils, so advice to get new coils appears at number seven on the Check Engine Light fix list. Closing out the top ten are replacing the fuel injectors, replacing the thermostat, and reprogramming the powertrain control module.

Much further down but making their presence increasingly felt are hybrid and electric vehicle repairs. Recommendations to replace the high-voltage battery in a hybrid or EV rose from #428 in 2020 to #348 in 2021 to #170 last year. We're about to watch this one and its ancillaries shoot up the charts over the coming years.

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