Customers Ask Honest-1: I was in a hurry, as usual this morning, and staring at me from the dash is a check engine light symbol. What could be wrong with my car and does it need immediate attention?
A check engine light is a silent alarm from your car’s engine computer alerting you that the general health of the car’s engine is in jeopardy. Because this light could indicate a serious problem, it should never be ignored or just turned off.
There are plenty of possibilities for a check engine light to go on and most need to be taken care of in a timely manner, especially if the light is blinking.
Although the list may be lengthy, a study conducted by CAR MD in 2010, indicated that there are five common car malfunctions that may cause the check engine light to come on.
- Loose or Faulty Gas Cap: The very first thing to check when your light comes on is your gas cap. When a gas cap is cracked or not tightened properly, fuel vapors can leak out reducing gas mileage and increasing emissions. Pull over, take off your gas cap and inspect it. If it is cracked or is not able to provide a good seal, replace it. If it looks okay, place it back on, tighten it properly, and continue driving. If the check engine light turns off, this could have been your problem. If the light comes back on, you will need to make an appointment at Honest-1 to get your car checked out immediately to narrow down the cause.
- Oxygen sensor: The oxygen sensor provides data to the computer that measures how much fuel is burned effecting both your gas mileage and emission output. A faulty sensor is usually covered in oil ash, therefore not able to change the oxygen and fuel mixture. Not replacing this important component can lead to a broken catalytic converter that can cost thousands of dollars. It is important to bring your car in so we can connect it to our scanner to narrow down the cause of the problem.
- Catalytic Converter: The catalytic converter reduces exhaust gas by converting carbon monoxide and other harmful materials into harmless compounds. If you notice a decrease in gas mileage or pushing the gas petal is not causing acceleration, your catalytic converter may be failing and eventually your car will not be able to run. Replacing the catalytic converter can be pricey, but it should be done right away to prevent further damage.
- Mass Airflow Sensor: The mass air flow sensor regulates the amount of fuel needed to efficiently run your car based on the air coming in through the engine. Often times that mass air flow sensor fails because of a never replaced air filter or one that has been improperly installed. If this sensor is not replaced, eventually the car will start stalling.
- Spark Plugs and Wires: Unfortunately, spark plugs fail over time and need to be replaced. The job of a spark plug is to provide a gap for a spark in order to initiate combustion in the engine. When a spark plug misfires, you may feel a little jolt when accelerating. It is important to get these replaced right away.
Although these five common issues are frequent, the list is long when it comes to an illuminated check engine light. The only real way to determine the problem is to make an appointment and bring your car in for a diagnosis. If your check engine light is on, don’t delay! Make an appointment today!