Why Is My Check Engine Light On?

Yesterday I had the fun (aka annoying) experience of my check engine light turning on during my commute. I had to drive it over to the mechanic to figure out what was wrong with it. Turns out my fix was quick and easy, but I learned a lot in the process. I found out the three most common reasons that pesky light pops on, so maybe you can be prepared when it happens to you.

  • A Loose or Even Missing Gas Cap
    Believe it or not, your check engine light will actually light up if your gas cap is loose. So check that first since it won’t cost you anything to do so. The light will also turn on if the gas cap is missing. I don’t know about you, but I’ve left my gas cap on the hood of the car after pumping gas before. Then I pull away and it rolls right off. Thankfully, you can pick up a new one at almost any auto shop for around $10.
    Do you know why your gas cap is important? Fumes from the gas tank can actually escape through the uncapped hole. It can cause a very slight decrease in gas efficiently. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but, with the price so low, you might as well get it fixed to save you in the long run.
  • Your Oxygen Sensor Needs to Be Replaced
    If you don’t know cars well, your mind is probably drawing a blank on this one. It’s a little sensor that alerts your vehicle to when changes need to be made to the air and fuel ratio. If the car’s oxygen sensor breaks down or even malfunctions, it doesn’t mix the fuel and the air properly. This leads to an up to 40% decrease in fuel efficiency, which is no small amount.
    When your car isn’t maximizing its fuel use, it costs you big money. So, while the sensor is a whopping $250, it is important to get it fixed. A survey done year after year shows that this sensor is the number one reason your check engine light may turn on.
  • The Spark Plugs are Broken
    You might look over this option if your car is currently running. The spark plugs are what ignite the fuel to get your vehicle up and going right? So if your car is operating just fine when the check engine light turns on, this can’t be the option. But the spark plugs can be slowly going bad over time and finally break while the car is running. So, if the check engine light turns on, your vehicle may just not turn on the next time you get up for work.
    And that’s why, in my unprofessional opinion, you should go to a mechanic when you see that little red light turn on. You can save yourself a lot of stress and hassle. And if you let it go, it could damage your car even further which isn’t good by any standards.

My car is now back up and running and it was, thankfully, a minor issue. But you never know. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Your mechanic is your friend! They know way more than I could ever write in this one article. So stay safe out on the road.

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