Check engine light can mean many things big and small
You are dropping off your kids at school when suddenly an orange or red engine shaped light illuminates your car dashboard. Your heart skips a beat because the check engine light is any conscientious car owner’s biggest fear. This light is programmed to turn on whenever the vehicle’s brain detects something is wrong. This could mean a serious issue as well, but it is highly likely that the problem is minor. In most cases, when the check engine light turns on, it indicates a problem with the car’s emission control system and means that the vehicle is polluting the air beyond permissible federal standards. Here are some of the common reasons why check engine light turns on:
Loose Gas Cap
Once you have tightened the gas cap, there should be a vacuum seal created with it. If you don’t screw your gas cap tight enough when you fill your car, it can cause the check engine light to turn on. This can also happen if the cap is cracked or the seal is broken. Among all other problems that can cause the check engine light to turn on, this is the easiest to fix.
Faulty oxygen sensor
This is probably the most common reason. The oxygen sensor’s job is to measure oxygen levels in the exhaust and feedback the information to the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) of the car, which regulates the mixture of fuel and air entering the cylinders. Your car engine will continue to run even if the oxygen sensor needs replacement, but it will burn more fuel than necessary. If you fail to replace the oxygen sensor in time, it can damage other components such as the catalytic converter and spark plugs.
Faulty mass airflow sensor
This sensor is responsible for measuring the amount of air that enters the engine. The ECU then uses this information to calculate the right amount of fuel required for an optimal air-fuel ratio. If there is an issue with the mass airflow sensor, there could be jerking, stalling or hesitation during acceleration. Also, the check engine light will turn on.
Catalytic convertor failure
You really don’t want this to be the reason for your check engine light turning on, because a catalytic converter could be expensive to replace and your car cannot run without it. It converts harmful substances in the vehicle’s exhaust gasses, such as nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into less harmful substances like carbon dioxide and water vapour through chemical reactions.
Spark plug problems
Anything wrong with the ignition system can cause the check engine light to come on. Spark plugs ignite the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber and the spark plug wires deliver the spark from the ignition coil to the spark plugs. When the spark plugs don’t work properly, it can cause misfires and in worse cases, the cylinders can stop running completely. Other symptoms of a bad spark plug include drop in engine performance, rough idle and reduced gas mileage. A worn coil can also cause similar symptoms and may even cause the vehicle to stall suddenly. In case your car has already clocked 100,000 miles or more, you must get new spark plugs and wires.
A fading or dying battery means low voltage. When the battery is running low, the car’s computer responsible for reporting errors codes will also receive low voltage. This will generate an error code, which will trigger check engine light to turn on.
What to do in case your check engine light turns on?
When your vehicle’s check engine light turns on, you may wonder what to do-whether to stop immediately or keep driving till you reach a safe spot? Closely monitor your vehicle’s performance and see if the vehicle is stopping or surging, you are hearing any strange sounds or any other dashboard lights have come on. If there is nothing unusual other than the check engine light, you may continue to drive your car to a safe location. Make sure you call the mechanic and have it repaired immediately as soon as you reach a safe location. However, in case something seems unusual about the car’s performance, you must stop driving. Slow down and remain at a steady speed till you can pullover safely.
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