One day you are driving home when the worst thing happens: the check engine light comes on. What do you do? The temptation is to do nothing. In fact, about 10% of all drivers are running around with the check engine light on at any one time. Half of those drivers have had the check engine light going for more than three months. You’ve probably heard people say that there is “nothing wrong with the car” and ignore their light. The truth is there are some really good reasons why you should take your car in to an auto repair shop. Here are the five most common reasons, according to CarMD, that check engine lights go off.
Your Catalytic Converter Needs to Be ReplacedThe catalytic converter reduces the amount of exhaust gases by converting carbon monoxide and other waste gases into harmless compounds. If the catalytic converter is failing, you will probably have noticed your gas mileage getting worse. Eventually you won’t be able to keep the car running at all. Catalytic converters are expensive, but the good news is that they don’t usually fail on their own. They fail because of deteriorating spark plugs or broken oxygen sensors. These are much less expensive to fix, and your check engine light will come on if either of these is a concern. This means that if you pay attention to the check engine light and fix the minor problems, you can keep a major problem at bay.
Your Spark Plugs and Wires Need to Be ReplacedYour spark plug provides a seal for the combustion chamber and the pathway for sparks to initiate combustion. If the spark plugs are misfiring, you will feel a jolt whenever you attempt to accelerate. Spark plugs on new cars can last as long as 100,000 miles, but all spark plugs will fail at some point. Your auto mechanic shop can replace the spark plugs very quickly, and this is one of the cheapest types of car repair you can have done. Since a problem with your spark plugs can lead to bigger problems down the line, there’s no reason not to get this fixed right away.
One of Your Oxygen Sensors Needs to Be ReplacedYour oxygen sensor monitors how much unburned oxygen is coming from your exhaust system. This is how the computer tells how much fuel has been burned, and a faulty sensor will not give the right data to the computer and gas mileage will drop. Your car will have more than one oxygen sensor, and a code can tell the mechanic which one of these sensors needs to be replaced. It costs a couple hundred dollars to replace, but it will cost a couple thousand dollars to fix a busted catalytic converter if you ignore the problem.
Your Gas Cap Is Loose Or FaultyThe gas cap is a very serious part of your car. If it’s loose or cracked, fuel vapor leaks and this throws your entire system into flux. Your gas mileage will drop and emissions will increase. If your check engine light comes on, but your car doesn’t feel at all strange or jerky, the first thing you should do is probably pull over and check your gas cap. If you retighten this might just do the trick. If it’s cracked, you get a new one.
Your Mass Airflow Sensor Needs to Be ReplacedYour mass airflow sensor helps the car’s computer put the right amount of fuel in based on how much air comes through the engine. If the mass airflow sensor is faulty, this can increase emissions and decrease gas mileage. The car might even stall. Most of the time, a mass airflow sensor fails because an air filter was installed improperly or never replaced. Air filters need to be changed out once a year.
These the five most common reasons why that check engine light will come on. In addition to getting regular oil change and lube and filter service, take care of your car by always paying attention to the check engine light.