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Apr 1, 2014

What Does the Check Engine Light Really Mean?

Posted By in Car News | No Comments »

You’re about to embark on a road trip. The car is packed, the gas tank is full, the coffee is in the cupholder, but just as you pull out of the driveway, you notice the ominous orangey glow of the dreaded check engine light. This light usually comes on without warning, no smoke, no stalling, nothing. It leaves that sickening feeling in driver’s guts that this warning will come with a costly surprise, but today we will dispel the mystery as we discuss the five most common causes of the check engine light.

Check Engine Light

1. Oxygen Sensor: this sensor functions to monitor the unburned oxygen being emitted from your exhaust allowing your vehicle to keep tabs on how much fuel is being burned. If there is a problem with sensor, the information being processed leads to faulty data, reduction in gas mileage, and lead to higher emissions. Chances are the sensor is covered in oil ash and simply needs to be replaced.

2. Time to replace Mass Airflow Sensor: this is another important sensor which communicates to your car how much fuel to use based on the air flow entering your engine. Faulty airflow sensors can occur due to dirty air filters, so make sure to replace it on schedule!

3. Loose or Faulty Gas cap: while this may seem silly, it is true—the check engine light may be coming on because there is a lack in proper sealing of the gas tank resulting in escaped fuel vapors which alters the proper function of the system as whole. The cap may need tightening, repair, or replacement.

4. Time to replace Spark Plugs and Wires: your spark plugs function to seal off the combustion chamber and allow for a spark to ignite combustion in the engine to start the car. Faulty plugs can misfire and cause problems when speeding up. Older cars (circa 1995 and older) need spark plug replacement every 25,000 miles or so while newer vehicles have a longer lifespan.

5. Time to replace the Catalytic Convertor: the catalytic convertor is in place to reduce exhaust emissions while converting harmful substances such as carbon monoxide into safe emissions. An issue with the convertor results in the inability to accelerate as the gas is applied as well as a marked decrease in gas mileage. Regular maintenance checks should prevent this from occurring.

The good news is: modern vehicles are equipped onboard computer systems (known as OBD II) that have the ability to detect any of the above problems, along with a few others that may come your way. Most auto-body shops, like us at Service Plus, can connect to your car’s system and perform a diagnostic check to find out what’s really going on. So if you see that light come on, don’t dismay but don’t delay either—get it checked out by a professional who could help prevent a problem and save you money in the long run!

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