5 Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On
An activated check engine light isn’t always cause to panic. But it’s important to address it as soon as possible.
As tempting as it can be to ignore a check engine warning, neglecting it could lead to a costly repair bill and compromise your safety.
“If you get used to the check engine light being on, you won’t know if more damage is being done to your car until you have a larger problem, says Bill Moss, mechanical division director for the Automotive Service Association and owner of EuroService Automotive in Warrenton, Virginia.
Any number of problems can trigger your vehicle’s check engine light. Here are some of the common culprits identified by CarMD.com in its annual Vehicle Health Index Reports.
First check your gas cap for cracks or other damage. Replacing the cap is a simple, inexpensive fix. If your cap is loose, retighten it, and the light should turn off after you’ve driven a few miles.
This is the most common cause of an activated light, according to CarMD.com. The oxygen sensor helps keep a car running efficiently and reduces emissions. It does both by measuring the ratio of air and fuel entering the engine and alerting the vehicle computer when the mixture is either too lean or too rich so it can be adjusted accordingly. One sign of a malfunctioning oxygen sensor is a drastic decline in your car’s fuel economy.
Perhaps one of the most serious and expensive parts to replace, a failed catalytic converter typically results from neglecting other problem parts — such as faulty spark plugs or the oxygen system. Warning signs range from bad gas mileage to a breakdown.
Mass Airflow Sensor
This part calculates how much fuel to add to the engine based on air intake. So a problem can worsen fuel economy, increase emissions and even stall the engine. Regularly changing your vehicle’s air filters can help ward off issues.
When faulty spark plugs misfire, your engine doesn’t use all cylinders when accelerating, and you may notice that your vehicle feels sluggish and is slow to accelerate. Replacing the plugs also can reduce the risk of overheating, maintain gas mileage and help prevent damage to the catalytic converter.
A Flashing Warning
If your vehicle’s check engine light is on but not flashing, it’s not an emergency. Just be sure to have it checked in a timely manner, Moss says. A flashing check engine light is a warning that your car needs immediate assistance. To avoid doing serious damage to your vehicle, pull over to safety and call to have the car towed to a repair shop.