5 Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On

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check engine light is on des moines

Your Check Engine Light is On. Now what?

Murphy’s law – If anything can go wrong it probably will. So you’re on your way to an important job interview or sales call. You’ve just packed up the family car and left town on a road trip you’ve been planning for months. Or you’re just feeling a little stressed out and think the last thing you want is car trouble. Then a red light blinks on in your dash. It’s the Check Engine light, and you immediately envision worst-case scenarios like expensive car repairs or the ultimate demise of your car.

check engine light is on des moinesIf your Check Engine light comes on, chances are pretty good that your car isn’t going to stall out and leave you stranded right away. But it’s not something you want to ignore.

As soon as you’re able to, take your car to an auto parts store and ask them to run a diagnostic test on your vehicle. They’ll hook up a computer to your dash that can identify the reason your Check Engine light is on. In some cases, it’s a simple fix. You may also need the help of an experienced mechanic, but at least you’ll get an idea of what the problem is.

Here are the five most common reasons the Check Engine Light gets activated:

1. Defective Oxygen Sensor. Most cars have two to four oxygen sensors which essentially help regulate oxygen and fuel to help your car get the best gas mileage possible. When a sensor fails, gas mileage declines, and more emissions will be present in your car’s exhaust. It’s a relatively easy and low-cost repair to make. But if you ignore it for too long, a faulty oxygen sensor could damage your car’s catalytic converter, and that can be an expensive repair.

2. Check the Gas Cap. Most cars on the road today have engine sensors linked to your car’s fuel system. If your gas cap isn’t on properly or tightened down enough, or it has a crack, your car’s fuel efficiency will be off. If this is the source of your problem, you can fix it for free or less than the cost of a Starbucks coffee. Check your gas cap and make sure it’s tightened down. And if your gas cap has a crack or faulty seal, buy a new gas cap at and auto parts store to replace the old one on your car. It’s one of the easiest fixes associated with the Check Engine Light.

3. The Catalytic Converter Needs to be Replaced. This isn’t the news you want to hear if you remember reading about this in connection with a defective oxygen sensor. It’s an expensive repair that can cost an estimated $2,000. If your catalytic converter is failing, eventually it will quit working completely and you’ll be calling a tow truck. Give us a call and we’ll get your car back up and running.

4. Mass Airflow Sensor is Failing. When your car’s mass airflow sensor begins to fail, your car can’t get the right amount of air and fuel mixture to power your engine. Your gas mileage will start to decline, and your car will stall more and more frequently. Like the oxygen sensors, it’s a relatively easy repair to do on your own if you’re willing. And most mechanics will install a new airflow sensor for under $300.

5. Spark Plugs Need More Spark. When the spark plugs in your engine start to fail, you’ll notice periodic jolts or fluctuations in your engine’s power when you’re driving. Sparks plugs are like a lot of car parts that just don’t last forever. Older cars may need the spark plugs replaced every 30,000 miles, while the spark plugs in newer cars should last 100,000 miles or more. If you have the time and patience, you can replace the sparks plugs on your car with a few basic tools. And it’s generally a low-cost repair if you bring it in to the shop.

If your Check Engine Light comes on, don’t panic. It’s your car’s warning system giving you an indicator to get your car checked out. But just don’t ignore it. Schedule an appointment with Beckley Auto immediately to find out the issue and fix it as soon as possible!

Check Your Tire Pressure to Keep on Rolling

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tire pressure des moines iowa

Whether it’s the open road and summer vacation calling your name, the usual around-town trips, or business appointments that have you spending a lot of time on the road, your car is the key to getting you to your destination. Unless you’re really driving a vehicle in rough shape, most people expect to get in the car, turn on the key, and get to their destination without incident.

tire pressure des moines iowaBut how many times have you seen someone with a flat tire stranded on the side of the road trying to dig out their tire iron or wait for roadside assistance? Nearly 250,000 car accidents occur each year because of low tire pressure, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And an estimated 75 percent of those accidents could have been prevented if the driver took the time have a slow leak repaired or inflate their tires properly.

While some aspects of vehicle maintenance should be handled by an experienced mechanic, checking your tire pressure is something everyone can do. This simple test can save you a lot of money, prolong the life of your tires, improve gas mileage, and ultimately save your life

What Should Your Tire Pressure Be?

To find out what your tire pressure should be:

  • Check the owner’s manual of your vehicle for recommended tire pressure.
  • Look for a tire pressure guide in the doorjamb of your car.
  • Or look closely at the sidewall of your tire for the recommended tire pressure.

Measure Your Tire Pressure

Once you know what the tire pressure should be for the tires on your vehicle, use a tire pressure gauge to see if your tires are inflated properly, underinflated, or overinflated. You can buy a tire gauge for just a few dollars, and most tire inflation kiosks include a build in tire gauge on the air hose. Here’s how to measure your tire pressure:

  • Unscrew the cover or cap on the valve stem on your tire.
  • Position the tire gauge over the valve stem, and press down for just a second. You’ll hear a short hissing sound as the tire gauge gets a reading of your tire pressure.
  • Check the results. The tire gauge will tell you what your tire pressure is in PSI (Pounds per Square Inch).

Increase/Decrease Tire Pressure

If your tire pressure meets the guidelines recommended for the tires on your vehicle you won’t need to increase or decrease tire pressure.

If it’s higher than it should be, use the tire gauge to press down on the valve stem and remove some air. Then check the tire pressure again until you’re tire pressure is where it should be.

If your tire pressure is lower than it should be, attach an air hose or pump to the valve stem and briefly add some air. Then use your tire gauge to check the tire pressure again, and do this until you’ve inflated your tires to the recommended PSI.

It only takes a few minutes. Keeping your tires properly inflated will help your car perform better when you get behind the wheel.

Don’t Leave Home Without a Roadside Assistance Plan

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roadside assistance plan

What Would You Do Without A Good Roadside Assistance Plan?

During the summer months when more people are traveling, there’s bound to be more breakdowns. And that’s especially true for people who want to see the sights off the beaten path. If your car hasn’t had the best service history or a regular tune-up, there’s a chance you might encounter an engine problem, electrical failure, broken water pump, or simply run out of gas. And there’s no doubt that locking your keys in the car, getting a flat tire, leaving your lights on and running down the battery, or experiencing a breakdown can spoil your day and your plans for some summer fun.

roadside assistance planSo if you’re in the middle of Des Moines or on some dusty road outside of town and you’re stuck, what do you do? If you’ve got some mechanical skills, you might be able make a minor repair and get back on the road. But even that might require a trip and back to a parts store. If you’re not packing any tools, or don’t have the mechanical skills, then what? It’s the kind of situation no one wants to find themselves in. And that’s why we encourage people to carry a basic roadside assistance plan.

You can get a roadside assistance plan through organizations like AAA, the National Motor Club, and AARP. And most insurance companies offer various roadside assistance plans as an option when you buy a car insurance policy. Most basic plans only cost about $50 a year, and it’s worth every penny. Roadside assistance plans can save you a lot of money and typically include services at no additional cost like:

  • Free towing up to 50 miles
  • Dead battery services
  • Tire change service
  • Lock-out assistance
  • Gasoline delivery

Some plans even include a reimbursement for food and lodging if you have a breakdown that interrupts your travel plans. And if you slide off into a ditch or down an embankment, some plans even cover the cost of extrication and winching. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

We’ve been taking cars for nearly 40 years. And you’d be amazed at the calls we field to send out a tow truck to get people out of trouble. Even if you only use your roadside assistance plan once every couple of years, it’s worth every penny. Just to send out a tow truck can cost $50 or more. And paying out of pocket for some of the other services covered by a roadside assistance plan can cost hundreds of dollars.

If you already have a roadside assistance plan, keep it. You never know when you might need it. And if you don’t, check out your options before you’re stranded and need roadside assistance.

Remember, Beckley’s can get your car ready for any trip. From tuneups and oil changes to complete engine repair, we’re here to help get you on the road.