Everything You Need to Know if Check Engine Light is On

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Car owners who are familiar with the maintenance needs of the vehicle can make sure that they do not face problems. Maintaining the vehicle is directly related to its longevity, performance, and resale value. But if car owners are not attentive towards the several warning signs or they do not know what a warning light means, they may end up putting themselves in danger. So, whenever they see a warning, even if they are not sure what it means, they should research and make sure they take the necessary steps to prevent a calamity.

Car owners should pay attention to their surroundings but also what is happening to their cars as they drive. If they hear unusual noises or see any warning alerts, they should not ignore them. One such warning that car owners should always be careful about is the check engine light. The check engine light usually appears in the form of an engine sign with “check” written next to it. To understand what to do when the check engine light comes on, car owners need to understand why it is on.

The Purpose of Check Engine Light

The check engine light is part of the diagnostics systems in the car that can warn about some problem. Various aspects of the vehicle are managed by computers such as the engine speed and ignition timing. If the computers are unable to relay a command to the vehicle it will send a notification to the motorist through the “Check Engine” light. Moreover, the engine stores a code on its memory that reveals the reason for the malfunction. This code can be scanned through an electronic scan tool that is available at an auto repair shop. The code only gives direction to car owners about the problem. For proper diagnostics, they need to let an expert inspect the vehicle.

If the check engine light is flashing, it is an indicator that the problem is serious and needs immediate attention. A solid check engine light indicates that a problem has been detected which should be addressed at the earliest. In some cars, the color of the engine light is different for the level of severity. For example, it can be red or orange when a serious problem has been detected and otherwise it will be yellow. It is best to check the vehicle’s owner manual to understand this.

Why Does the Check Engine Light Turn On?

There can be several reasons that the check engine light turns on ranging from a loose gas cap to some serious malfunction in the internal engine. If there is a faulty gas cap, it risks fuel vapors to release into the atmosphere. Unless a proper inspection is not done, you cannot determine the reason behind the check engine warning. However, there are several common reasons that can trigger the check engine light.

  • Engine Problems: The engine is monitored by a control module using sensors. When a problem is detected in the engine, the check engine light turns on.
  • Transmission Issues: The transmission is responsible for controlling the engine’s power and delivering it to drive wheels. If there is a problem in transmission the tailpipe emission will increase. When the problem is detected the check engine light turns on.
  • Emission Problems: Modern-day vehicles have a variety of emission equipment including a recirculation system, exhaust gas, evaporative emissions system, and catalytic converter. The equipment is put in place to limit the tailpipe emission to protect the environment. Faulty emission equipment can lead to a check engine light warning.
  • Sensors and Module: The powertrain of a vehicle depends on various sensors and modules. These communicate with a network of data to send commands. So, if there is a problem with the network, sensors, wiring, or modules the check engine light will be on.
  • Fuel or Air Delivery Problem: If the car’s engine is not receiving sufficient air or fuel or if there is an over-supply, this indicates that there is a problem that is detected by the control module and indicated by the check engine light.
  • Ignition Problems: The ignition system has several components including spark plugs and coil packs. The ignition system is monitored by the control module and turns on the light if a problem occurs.

What to Do When the Check Engine Light is On

When the check engine light is on, observe the car and look out for strange movements or noises. If you detect some problem, it is best to pull over and call a mechanic. If you do not detect any imminent danger, continue driving with caution but drive to an auto repair shop. Drive at a slow speed and make sure that you reach safely. Even though you have conducted the preliminary check, it is always better to consult a professional to avoid any safety hazard. You may find out that the problem was harmless, but it is still better than taking a risk. Problems with the engine or other mechanical components not only affect the performance of the vehicle, but if the repairs are delayed, the cost of repairs can also increase. One faulty component can put pressure on an inter-connected component. This will cause this component to over-work itself and depreciate at a faster rate. So, by the time the car owner takes the car to get the problem fixed, it may have inflicted damage to another part.

Bottom Line

The first thing that car owners need to make sure of when they see the check engine light is to stop using the car. They must take it to an auto shop as soon as possible so that the mechanic can run diagnostics to determine the root of the problem. There is no way of finding out why the check engine light is on unless the vehicle is properly inspected.

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