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5 Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On

An activated check engine light isn’t always cause to panic. But it’s important to address it as soon as possible.

As tempting as it can be to ignore a “check engine” warning, neglecting it could lead to a costly repair bill and compromise your safety. Any number of problems can trigger your vehicle’s “check engine” light. Here are some common culprits:

Gas Cap

First, check your gas cap for cracks or other damage. Replacing the cap is a simple, inexpensive fix. If your cap is loose, retighten it, and the light should turn off after you’ve driven a few miles.

Oxygen Sensor

This is the most common cause of an activated light. The oxygen sensor helps keep a car running efficiently and reduces emissions. It does both by measuring the ratio of air and fuel entering the engine and alerting the vehicle computer when the mixture is too lean or too rich so it can be adjusted accordingly. One sign of a malfunctioning oxygen sensor is a drastic decline in your car’s fuel economy.

Catalytic Converter

A failed catalytic converter is perhaps one of the most serious and expensive parts to replace. Typically, it results from neglecting other problem parts — such as faulty spark plugs or the oxygen system. Warning signs range from low gas mileage to a breakdown.

Mass Airflow Sensor

This part calculates how much fuel to add to the engine based on air intake. So a problem can worsen fuel economy, increase emissions and even stall the engine. Regularly changing your vehicle’s air filters can help ward off issues.

Spark Plugs

When faulty spark plugs misfire, your engine doesn’t use all cylinders when accelerating, and you may notice that your vehicle feels sluggish and is slow to accelerate. Replacing the plugs also can reduce the risk of overheating, maintain gas mileage and help prevent damage to the catalytic converter.

A Flashing Warning

If your vehicle’s “check engine” light is on but not flashing, it’s not an emergency. Just be sure to have it checked in a timely manner. A flashing light is a warning that your car needs immediate assistance. To avoid seriously damaging your vehicle, pull over to safety and call to have the car towed to a repair shop.

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