The Dreaded Check Engine Light: What Does it Mean?

When the check engine light comes on in your car or truck, it can be daunting and worrisome. This light may come on for several reasons, since it is responsible for monitoring different systems in your vehicle. Fortunately, not every indicator light signals a big problem or major repair. It is important, however, to have your vehicle checked out immediately when you see the light come on. Driving with the light on for a long time can cause damage if something serious is actually wrong. Before heading to the repair shop, you can try to troubleshoot some simple issues yourself.

The Most Common Problems

Fortunately, some of the most common problems associated with the check engine light are not costly. In some vehicles, the engine indicator illuminates to alert you that you’re due for a tuneup or other periodic service. Check your car’s mileage, then reference your owner’s manual or recommended repair schedule. If your vehicle is at or near the 60,000 mile mark, for example, you may simply be due for regular maintenance.

Another minor problem may be a misaligned or malfunctioning gas cap. The light can come on if the cap is damaged, but it may be something even more simple. Sometimes just tightening the cap will fix the problem; however, replacing it may be necessary if it truly is cracked or broken. On the other end of the spectrum, the indicator may signal a problem with the catalytic converter. Other common causes include a bad oxygen or airflow sensor or fouled spark plugs.

The Cost of Delaying Repair

If your car has a serious mechanical problem, delaying repair can be quite costly. At best, you are likely to experience poor fuel economy and add extra pollution to the atmosphere until the problem is fixed. For example, if the oxygen sensor is bad, as much as 40 percent of your fuel efficiency may be lost. In the meantime, the faulty oxygen sensor can also damage your catalytic converter and spark plugs. If you’re due for emissions testing and inspection, you’ll likely have a problem passing if the indicator is lit.

On rare occasions, your check engine light may blink rather than remain constantly on. In this case, the problem is severe and must be assessed immediately to avoid costly engine damage. Stop your vehicle immediately and have it towed to your local repair shop.

While this dreaded light can simply be a nuisance, it may also indicate a serious problem with your car. Having routine maintenance like oil changes and tuneups can help keep your vehicle running well and help you avoid unexpected problems. If you live in the Midvale, Utah, area, see the experts at Viking Automotive. They can troubleshoot your vehicle and quickly identify the problem that activated your check engine light.



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