Possible Problems When the Check Engine Light Goes On

Published: 10/22/2010 by AutoShopit

Possible Problems When the Check Engine Light Goes On

There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a hectic day and then seeing the “check engine” light glowing away on your dashboard like a beacon of bad news. It always seems to happen at the most inconvenient times, and worst of all, it’s such a vague warning that you don’t know what you’re up against and may immediately jump to the worst case scenario  picturing expensive repair bills and a long stay in the shop.

Thankfully, in many cases, there is a simple explanation for what is going on under the hood, which won’t require a complete overhaul of your system. Here is a quick rundown of what your engine light might be trying to tell you:

Emission control malfunction: An emission control system is what your vehicle uses to try and cut down on the amount of pollution released into the outside air. It has many active sensors to ensure it is working properly, and when there is a problem with one of these components the check engine light will flag you to its need for replacement or repair.

Loose gas cap: One of the simplest problems that can cause the engine light to turn on is having a gas cap that is not screwed tight enough.  There are many cars on the market that measure the amount of pressure inside your gas tank, and an air leak from outside can set off an alarm that something isn’t right with your system. Tighten the cap and see if this resolves the problem; your light should go off soon after you address the issue with a little elbow grease.

Spark plug wires: Another common issue for car owners is aging sparkplug wires, which can become brittle and weak, causing electrical misfire inside of the vehicle’s engine.  With the engine off, drivers should examine sparkplugs for cracks and holes, and if they look worn out, replace them and see if this resolves the problem.

Water: If your engine light is coming on after your vehicle has been exposed to rainfall or a trip to the car wash, the problem might be that water is getting into your engine and down into the spark plug cylinders, triggering electrical misfiring. If the light goes off on its own a couple of days after exposure to water, then the culprit was most likely a damp engine.

It’s important to find out what’s triggering the check engine light, as there may be a problem of a serious nature to be addressed. Keep note of what was happening right before the light came on, and if there are any other ways in which your car does not appear to be behaving normally so that you can give your chosen mechanic all the information to make a quick diagnosis. Here at autoshopit.com, we make it easy for you to find the best local mechanic in your area. Simply browse through our comprehensive database to find nearby repair shops and read customer ratings and reviews from other drivers to choose with confidence. 

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