Part one of a series on the check engine light explores some of the meanings of this enigmatic system display.
What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?
What does the check engine light mean? When this light comes on, it is one of the most annoying lights that your car has. Why? Because it tells you virtually no information. However, there are according to LIFEHACKER.COM only a few causes of this light. The second part of this article will explore the rest of them, but here are the first two causes:
Like it or hate it, emissions testing is part of life in the Phoenix area. By Arizona law, you can’t even egister your car unless you pass emissions. And during emission testing, the check engine light is an instant fail, and you’re out $35 for the inspection fee plus any repairs. One major source of problems where the check engine light is concerned is your car’s catalytic converter. As auto parts go, this part is essentially worthless. All it really does is allow your car to pass emissions.
One: Replace Oxygen Sensor
An oxygen sensor is a part that monitors the unburned oxygen from the exhaust. It helps monitor how much fuel is burned. A faulty sensor means it’s not providing the right data to the computer and causes a decrease in gas mileage. Most cars have between two and four oxygen sensors and the code you get from the scanner will tell you which one needs replacing.P
What causes it: Over time, the sensor gets covered in oil ash and it reduces the sensors ability to change the oxygen and fuel mixture. A faulty sensor not only reduces gas mileage, it also increase emissions.P
What you should do: Not replacing a broken oxygen sensor can eventually lead to a busted catalytic convertor which can cost upwards of $2,000. Taking your car into a shop will cost you around $200 depending on the car. However, an oxygen sensor is easy to replace on many cars and is usually detailed in the owner’s manual. If you know where the sensor is, you only have to unclip the old sensor and replace it with a new one. Regardless of how you approach it, you should get this fixed right away.
Two: Loose or Faulty Gas Cap
You wouldn’t think a gas cap would be that important, but it is. When it’s loose or cracked, fuel vapors leak out and can throw the whole fuel system off. This causes a reduction in gas mileage and increases emissions.P
What causes it: If you get an error pointing to the gas cap it means fuel vapors are leaking out of your cap. This means the cap is either cracked or just wasn’t tightened well enough.
What you should do: If your car isn’t feeling jerky or strange when the check engine light comes on the first you should check is the gas cap. Pull over, retighten it, and take a look at the cap to see if it has any cracks in it. Continue driving and see if the check engine light turns off. [READ MORE]
IS A CHECK ENGINE LIGHT SERIOUS?
Is a check engine light serious? Depends on what the underlying cause of the light is. Something like an oxygen sensor or a loose gas cap is obviously easily remedied, but something like a transmission problem is a much more serious auto repair.
What do you do if your check engine light is on? First off, don’t panic. Try tightening your gas cap. If that doesn’t work and the light stays on, then get it into an auto repair shop in Mesa.
For more information on the check engine light, be sure to read part two and part three as well.