The Dreaded Check Engine Light...What Does It Mean?
You’re driving down the road, things seem perfectly normal, when suddenly, something catches your eye. It isn’t - it can’t be - please don’t let it be...it is - the check engine light. But your car seems just fine, right? Well, don’t let a smooth running car put your mind at ease when it comes to that check engine light!
Your check engine light can signal a wide variety of issues. There could be something as simple as you forgetting to tighten your gas cap, or it could be as serious as a leak of some sort that could lead to catastrophic failure at the worst possible time. The best way to know what is going on with your car is to talk to a local parts store, such as Autozone, or to talk to your mechanic. While part stores typically can scan your car to see what is going wrong and tell you possibly how immediately it needs to be fixed, you will still need to consult with a mechanic to have what is going wrong repaired and to ensure there is nothing else to worry about.
Autozone explained the top reasons that a check engine light can typically come on:
Gas Cap We’ve all done it - left the gas station with such a scrambled mind that we forgot to put the gas cap back on. If your check engine light comes on, this should be the first thing to check. Make sure you check to see that the cap is tight as well. Just because it is on and tight does not rule out that it can be a gas cap (as it could be worn out) this just saves you a trip to the mechanic.
Sensors The O2 and Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensors are going to be the most common culprits in this case. Both sensors can cause a significant decrease in gas mileage if you don’t have them changed, and both can cause further damage to other parts such as spark plugs and catalytic converters.
Catalytic Converter Besides keeping your car green, this part - when it goes bad - will reduce your fuel efficiency and may cause your vehicle to run a bit warmer. If you live in a state with emissions testing, a bad catalytic converter can cause you to pass testing.
Tune Up Time When’s the last time you were in for a tune up? If your check engine light comes on, it may be time to visit with your local mechanic. The check engine light can signal that spark plugs are going bad. Spark plugs that aren’t replaced can cause further damage to other parts. They also cause your car to run on less power, giving it less fuel economy as well. If your vehicle is shaking during idle, it may be a sign that the spark plugs are causing your engine light woes.
Always be sure to get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can when your check engine light comes on. Even if the light comes off before you get a chance to talk to a mechanic, be sure to still call them with what happened. They can properly advise you and may be able to see what the light was attempting to warn you about.
If your check engine light is on or if you have any other concern about your vehicle, give us a call at 618-694-6005 or send us an email. We’ll be happy to talk to you more about how to keep your vehicle running well for years to come.