If you’re an experienced driver, you’ve likely been in this situation. Either you’re currently driving, or starting up your car, and suddenly the check engine light comes on. You think to yourself, “why is my check engine light on”. It’s a sight that no one wants to see. But what does the check engine light mean? The signal has a few common reasons for the unwanted visit, some much more costly than others. Let’s dissect what the check engine light means.
So why is the check engine light on? Well, there’s 5 main causes for your light to be on. Not all of them are going to cost you an arm and a leg, and some of them can be fixed pretty simply, or on your own. The important thing is trying what you can before bringing your car to the dealer to really check why this light may be on.
Your Oxygen Sensor Needs Replacing
The first issue could be with your oxygen sensor. The oxygen sensor is a sensor that measures the burned oxygen in your car’s exhaust system. Getting it replaced is typically only a couple hundred dollars, so it’s not the worst issue you could face when your check engine light comes on. If you ignore this issue, you’re likely going to end up burning more fuel than needed, and your fuel efficiency can go down by up to 40%. In the worst cases, not getting it replaced will end up with more damage done to your catalytic converter. For this reason, definitely replace your oxygen sensor if this is the reason your check engine light is on.
Loose or Broken Gas Cap
This is the hopeful reason why your check engine light has come on. If your gas cap is loose or faulty, the check engine light will come on. While there are definitely issues associated with not fixing this, like losing gas through evaporation, and ending costing you more in fuel, this problem is an easy fix. Sometimes just tightening your gas cap and fiddling with it will fix this issue. Even if you need to fully replace a faulty gas cap, it’s going to run you less than a hundred dollars, making this an easy fix.
Your Catalytic Converter Needs Replacing
Your catalytic converter is the big one. The catalytic converter is what turns carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide, to help protect the environment. Without a working catalytic converter, your car will not pass the emissions test, which means you have to get the catalytic converter replaced if you want to continue driving legally. Without replacing it, your car will run at higher temperatures, and your car will have reduced fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, the catalytic converter is an expensive piece to replace. With an average cost of parts and labor being $1,000, let’s hope your gas cap is loose.
Your Mass Airflow Sensor Needs Replacing
The mass airflow sensor is what measures how much air is getting to your engine to help determine how to run the engine efficiently. Not replacing this can eventually lead to damage to your catalytic converter. This one will run you a few hundred dollars, while it’s not the worst reason your check engine light could be on, not making sure the issue is taken care of can lead to a costly catalytic converter replacement, so it’s better to fix this issue right away.
Your Spark Plugs and Wires Need Replacing
The final common reason your check engine light is appearing is due to issues with your spark plugs. The spark plugs are what ignite the fuel in your combustion chamber. The spark plug is the key component to starting your car, connected right to the ignition. This is a really important part of your car, despite being so small. Again, this fix is only a couple hundred dollars, and very worth it, as neglecting it can end up hurting your catalytic converter, ignition coils, and your oxygen sensor. You’ll also experience poor performance of your car while using worn spark plugs.
What does a Flashing Check Engine Light Mean?
Sometimes your check engine light isn’t steady. It’ll be flashing or blinking. The flashing check engine light means it’s time to get your car checked out right now. Do not wait or continue driving around with a blinking check engine light. Many of the issues with the solid check engine light could eventually lead to damage to the catalytic converter. When the light is flashing, it typically means that your catalytic converter is actively being damaged. It can be caused by a failed ignition coil, bad engine valves, an engine computer failure, fuel injector failure, or more. The important thing is that you get your car checked out immediately before you do too much damage.
Don’t Ignore Your Check Engine Light
While some minor car issues can often be ignored, the check engine light is one you do not want to mess around with. While most of the fixes only cost a couple hundred dollars at most, all issues (except for the broken gas cap) can lead to further, more serious problems. That $200 fix you could have done when your check engine light first came on, can turn into a $2000 problem down the line. It’s not a risk you should take. The check engine light can seem hard to decipher at first, but having knowledge about the types of issues that can cause the light, you’ll be ready to tackle any problem that caused your check engine light to turn on!
If you’re driving an Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche, or Sprinter check out our store for replacement parts when your check engine light comes on!