Your Local Auto Repair Shop can help!
On the TV series The Big Bang Theory, Penny is perpetually driving around with her check engine light on. While this joke is the source of many laughs on the show, in reality all too many people ignore this indicator to ill effect. The truth is, this light is an important part of your car’s safety notification system and should never be ignored.
What It Means
The check engine light on your vehicle means that there is a malfunction somewhere in your engine or fuel system. This can range from something as simple as a loose gas cap to expensive but important repairs like a bad catalytic converter. In any case, at very least your car is not functioning at peak efficiency when you drive it.
Loose Gas Cap
This is the most common and easily fixed cause for an indicator light. Just double-check to make sure your gas cap is on tight! When your gas cap is loose or cracked, fuel vapors escape through it, causing your gas mileage to go down.
If you tighten your gas cap and the light doesn’t go off, make sure it’s not cracked and that the seal seems solid. Otherwise, a new gas cap costs a few bucks. If replacing and tightening down your gas cap doesn’t make the light go off, you may have a more serious problem.
Oxygen or Airflow Sensors
Your oxygen sensor keeps track of how much fuel is being burned. The airflow sensor controls your fuel/air mix. If either is not functioning properly, you’re not getting the gas mileage you should be getting. Sensors get covered in oil and grime over time, which makes them less effective. A bad or improperly installed air filter can also cause malfunctions. These are relatively inexpensive, costing only a couple hundred dollars to get fixed. If ignored, though, you can have more serious issues.
One of the more serious issues that can cause activation of the light is that your catalytic converter has gone bad. Ignoring problems with an oxygen sensor can lead to this issue, which can then compound the problem. In fact, catalytic converters generally last a very long time if you keep up with your car’s routine maintenance.
The catalytic converter changes carbon monoxide into less harmful gasses so as to control your emissions issues. A failed catalytic converter not only destroys your gas mileage, it will eventually stop your car from running altogether.
If your car seems to be running rough and the indicator light is on, you could need new spark plugs. This is also one of the less expensive repairs out there and should be part of routine maintenance. Ignoring the problem, though, can also lead to your catalytic converter going bad.
If your check engine light is on, don’t ignore the problem! Acting quickly can mean the difference between a couple hundred and a few thousand dollars. If you are experiencing this issue, contact your local auto repair shop today for a diagnosis.