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Multi-colored warning lights

  [vote for,

Our car's "Check engine" light has been randomly coming on, and turning back off just as randomly, for about a year now. We've also had it come on many years in the past from the fuel cap not being tightly in place. As a result, I pretty much ignore it entirely when it comes on. But, what if one day it comes on when there really is a serious problem? Then we won't do anything about it, with potentially expensive consequences.

I propose several different LEDs, of different colors, mounted behind the word or icon insert on the dashboard. For example, a blue light to indicate that some routine maintenance is needed, a yellow one for a minor problem, and a red light for a major problem that needs immediate attention, lest major damage or an unsafe condition occurs.

Also, there should be a "fuel cap loose/missing" light that only goes yellow, to avoid confusion and unnecessary calls or visits to a mechanic.

If I see a blue light, I will just make a mental note to mention it at my next oil change, and if I see a yellow one, get a tune up. But if I see a red light, I know that I should either pull into the next repair shop I see, or if there isn't one close by, I should call a tow truck.

For the "light check" upon ignition, the lights should go red, yellow, blue, then turn off if there's no actual faults.

Dickcheney6, Sep 03 2011


       If cars were like computers, this would exist, i.e. a brand, or model, optimized for the do-it-yourself-er. As it is, the display has a bandwidth of exactly one bit: do you, or do you not need to take the car to a mechanic? Least common denominator UI.   

       But cars are a much more reliable, mature technology than computers. Perhaps there's no connection between these two observations, though I suspect otherwise.
mouseposture, Sep 03 2011

       Having wasted good money on a code-reader, I'm all for making it integral to the car itself. A Diagnostic Mode which uses one of the existing LCD screens (radio, dvd, navigation).
FlyingToaster, Sep 03 2011

       <Red Dwarf>   

       Rimmer: "Step up to Red Alert! "   

       Kryten: "Are you absolutely sure, sir ? It does mean changing the bulb…"   

       <Red Dwarf>
8th of 7, Sep 03 2011

       Actually if your car is OBDII compliant it already has a two stage system. If the CE light stays on all the time the computer has detected a non critical problem. If on the other hand the CEL begins to flash the computer has detected a critical sign of engine malfunction that will likely cause imminent engine damage. Very few people ever see the flashing CEL.
WcW, Sep 03 2011

       // If cars were like computers //   

       Just about every new car on the market today has at least one computer on board, without which it will not run. So modern cars are, in fact, a bit like computers. They're computers with wheels on.
Alterother, Sep 03 2011

       I'll give this a bun but I would take it a step further and say that cars should have an annunciator panel that tells you exactly what is wrong. It should not be hard at all to incorporate this into the computer display already in most new cars.
DIYMatt, Sep 03 2011

       <[The Alterother] tries to start engine>   

       Car: "I'm sorry, [Alterother], I can't let you do that."   

       <[The Alterother] howls in unbridled rage, attacks car with hatchet/>
Alterother, Sep 04 2011

       ^and that's why they only let you drive a deuce.
FlyingToaster, Sep 04 2011

         // If cars were like computers //    Dunno about that. My computer crashed 3 times last week. That's triple my car's rate.
AusCan531, Sep 04 2011

       //My computer crashed 3 times last week. That's triple my car's rate// Shoulda got a Mac.
DIYMatt, Sep 04 2011

       That existing system does sound very stupid. Why why would it request you check the engine if the fuel cap is loose?   

       I am used to cars having separate lights for doors left open, sometimes one for safety belt undone, low on oil, leaving the handbrake on, and separate indicators to indicate whether there is plenty of fuel and the engine temperature is normal. There may be a check engine light on my car but I am fortunate enough not to have been bothered by it yet. Cars have lots of problem indicator lights.   

       Tightening the fuel cap is no more a mechanic's job then putting the fuel in in the first place. What, are you expected to drive to the mechanic, have them loosen the cap, drive to the petrol station, fill up, drive back to the mechanic to put the fuel cap back on?   

       [edit] do modern cars still have oil indicator lights? That is something people would be more likely to leave to a mechanic then putting on the fuel cap.
caspian, Sep 04 2011

       [Alterother] The "computers" in cars are more like microprocessors, I'd argue. It's the general- purpose nature of computers, and cars, that makes them so hard to userproof.   

       Also, you're not supposed to howl in unbridled rage, haven't you read the script? You just breath heavily.   

       [DIYMatt] *all* cars are Macs. That is, with all of them, there's a heavy emphasis on esthetics and "design."
mouseposture, Sep 04 2011

       //       Also, you're not supposed to howl in unbridled rage, haven't you read the script? You just breath heavily.    //   

       I'm a Heathen. We do things a little differently. Check the footnotes. Or did you not get the blue-cover? Here, use mine.   

       And yes, I'm aware of the general nature of automotive computers. I didn't mean to imply that an Acura will run MS Office or anything.
Alterother, Sep 04 2011

       // ^and that's why they only let you drive a deuce. //   

       Probably true.
Alterother, Sep 04 2011

       "Tightening the fuel cap is no more a mechanic's job then putting the fuel in in the first place."   

       Well then, the "check engine" light shouldn't come on at all for a loose fuel cap!   

       My best guess though is that it's not actually a sensor specifically for the fuel cap being left off, but when it's loose, it causes an air pressure difference in the gas tank or gas lines, which causes some kind of pressure sensor to read a "wrong" value causing the light to come on? The reason is that one time, the check engine light came on in my car. It was rather worrying especially because it had pretty high milage, so I called the mechanic, and he asked me if I had filled up the gas tank recently. I said yes, and he said the fuel cap could be loose and that will sometimes trigger the check engine light. He said, take it off and put it back on tightly, and it should go off after the car has been driven for a while.   

       I doubt a sensor on the fuel cap itself would take that long to respond, so that's why I think it has to do with the air/fuel pressure in the tank.
Dickcheney6, Nov 25 2011

       If car drivers were trained as well as pilots are, this issue would not arise.
8th of 7, Nov 25 2011


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