What Your Check Engine Light Is Trying To Tell You

4 March 2015
 Categories: , Blog

One of the most vexing things about owning a car is trying to decipher what all the warning lights mean. While your owner's manual tells you what most of them mean and how to fix them, there is usually no additional information regarding a check engine light other than it is time to take it to an automotive repair shop. Do you know what to do if the check engine light on your vehicle comes on?

What to Do If the Light Comes On

The first thing you should remember is not to panic. The second thing you should do is not ignore it. If the light does come on, call your nearest automotive parts store and ask if they do OBD-II readings for free. When you go see them, they will plug a small device into your dashboard and give you one or more codes. These codes are standard across all car manufacturers now, so it does not matter what type of car you have.

What Does the Code Mean?

With these codes in hand, you can visit any number of websites that maintain lists of codes. The problem code can mean any number of things, but not all of them mean expensive automotive repair. This is a list of the four most common reasons for your light to come on:

  • The O2 sensor needs to be replaced. This sensor helps to keep your gas mileage efficient. If it gets dirty with soot or other debris, the sensor cannot do its job and needs to be replaced.
  • Your gas cap is loose or cracked. If the gas cap is loose or broken, fuel vapors escape and can cause an increase in emissions as well as a drop in gas mileage.
  • Your catalytic converter has gone bad. The catalytic converter reduces harmful emissions that your car produces. If it has gone bad, it will need to be replaced.
  • The mass air flow sensor is bad. This sensor tells your car how much fuel to send to the engine by measuring your exhaust for unburnt fuel. If it is broken, it will need to be replaced.

Is This Going to be Expensive?

Yes, the check engine light can indicate a major problem with your car. However, just as often, it can signal something minor that will not cost much to fix. Small problems that are not caught can escalate into larger ones. For example, an MAF sensor that may cost $100 to fix, if left alone can escalate into a broken catalytic converter that can cost $2000.

While the check engine light can be a source of frustration, it does not have to be. A ten-minute stop at a service center can tell you what the light means and how to fix it. Sometimes the fix will only mean a quick visit to your automotive repair shop. After all, ten minutes is a small price to pay for peace of mind. For more information, contact DR Will's And Kahuna's Auto Repair or a similar company.