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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!