Why is my check engine light on?
Anyone who has owned a vehicle has probably run into the dreaded check engine light. And if you’ve run into it, you probably have experienced just how annoying it can be. There are multiple reasons for it lighting up, and unfortunately the light isn’t very specific about what really needs checked. So if you’re asking yourself “why is my check engine light on?” then there are five major reasons that you should check first, because more than likely one of them will fix the problem.
5 – Spark Plugs/Plug Wires
Your spark plugs and wires might be a tiny piece of your car, but they’re one of the most important. These little guys are responsible for the spark (hence the name) that initiates combustion within your engine, effectively making your car move. If you’re running your car on bum spark plugs and wires, your car will still go, but you’re going to experience really poor performance and jumpy acceleration, and they’ll eventually lead to much more problematic issues. The nice thing about this issue is that A. it’s relatively inexpensive, and B. if you’re even remotely handy you can do it yourself.
4 – Mass Airflow Sensor
The Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) is another small portion of your vehicle, in fact all five items on this list are relatively small pieces of the vehicle, but they have much bigger importance. The MAF is a sensor that measures the amount of air getting to your engine, and utilizes this information to determine the amount of fuel necessary to run your vehicle efficiently. A lot of the time, this problem occurs if you’re not keeping up with your air filter. When is the last time you changed it? If you’ve got a fairly old car, you should be changing it just about every 30,000 miles, and a newer car can sometimes last much longer. When you change your oil, take a look at the filter and see how dirty it is. Replacing the sensor is going to cost you more than pocket change, so the cost of replacing your filter regularly is much more manageable.
3 – Catalytic Converter
The catalytic converter is not only important to your vehicle, it’s important to the environment. It works to reduce emissions by converting carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. This thing will really only get damaged if you’re not keeping up with your regular maintenance. This thing is hands down the most expensive issue on this list, so we can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining your vehicle. Aside from the environmental problems it causes, you’ll also notice extremely poor performance and even worse fuel economy, and your vehicle will probably be running at a much higher temperature.
2 – Gas Cap
The easiest and cheapest cause for your check engine light being on is a loose, damaged or missing gas cap. This is the thing that you unscrew every time you pump gas, and while it might not seem like much it maintains pressure and keeps the toxic fumes of gasoline inside the fuel system. Not having the gas cap in working order means your gas will begin to evaporate, and you’re going to be paying a lot more money at the pump. A lot of times, you simply didn’t screw it on tight enough. But there is a chance that it might be cracked, in which case three bucks at an auto parts store will fix this problem.
1 – Oxygen Sensor
The oxygen sensor is another unit similar to the MAF. It measures the amount of unburned oxygen within the vehicle’s exhaust system, helping decide how much fuel to burn. Most vehicles have multiple O2 sensors, and each one would cost roughly $200 to replace, but more than likely you’ll only have to replace one unless you’re really beating up your car. But even $200 is better than letting it go and causing a blown catalytic converter. If your O2 sensor does need replacing, your vehicle is going to burn more fuel than it actually needs, thus causing a drastic drop in fuel economy and causing you to fork out a lot more cash at the pump.
We hope that this little list helps you out in the future if your check engine light does come on, but just remember to keep up with your regular maintenance and you shouldn’t run into these problems. If you have any further questions, feel free to call or stop into one of our Drive Wheaton service departments. And don’t forget, if you don’t think spending money to fix your car is worth it, we happen to sell vehicles! So check out our inventory and schedule a test drive.