A car’s dashboard has many warning lights which alert the drivers there is a problem with the car that needs to be addressed. One of the warning lights is the check engine light. Is your check engine light on? If it is, it can be alarming. But, what does it mean? An illuminating check engine light can mean many different things but usually, it means that there is an issue with the engine, transmission, modules and sensors, emissions equipment, air and fuel delivery, and the ignition. It includes problems with the catalytic converter, spark plugs, airflow sensor, oxygen sensor, and other components.
You should always be mindful of your dashboard warning lights. If you notice that your check engine light is on, you can run a diagnostic test to determine what caused it. The problem should then be corrected immediately. The problem might be as simple as a loose gas cap or something more serious like a failed internal engine component. But whatever caused it, an illuminating check engine light should never be ignored. Is your check engine light on? What does it mean? Read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know!
Is Your Check Engine Light On? – What Could Cause the Check Engine Light to Come On?
Why is your check engine light on? You have probably asked this question when you notice that your car has an illuminating check engine light. Whatever triggered it, you need to be mindful of the check engine light on your car’s dashboard. It is probably the most misunderstood warning light since it can be set off for a variety of reasons. It is installed there to warn you that there is an issue somewhere. The light won’t give you some information about what it’s for or what caused it but, if you ignore it, it can compromise you and your car’s safety. It can lead to problems that can be very expensive to fix.
But in some cases, if your check engine light is on, it does not mean that the problem is something so severe that will require you to ask for help or call for a tow truck. The problem might be as simple as a gas cap that needs to be tightened. But whatever caused it, experts recommended that you check what caused it to make sure that the problem is not something severe or urgent.
The color of the check engine light can vary, depending on what car you own. You may see an orange, red, or yellow illuminating check engine light. Is your check engine light on? If it is, you need to check the color it is illuminating or whether it is flashing or not. In some cars, a red light or a flashing light usually means that the problem is severe and it should be addressed immediately while a solid yellow or orange light means that the problem is less severe. However, you should still have your car checked to determine what triggered it.
So why is your check engine light on? What caused it to illuminate? Here are the most common reasons why your check engine light is on?
- Faulty catalytic converter
A faulty catalytic converter can be the reason why your check engine light is on. The catalytic converter is placed in the car’s exhaust system. It works by converting the harmful gases produced during the combustion process into less harmful ones. When your catalytic converter becomes faulty, it may set off your check engine light. If you drive your car with it, it can lead to harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere.
A faulty catalytic converter can be prevented if you follow the recommended regular maintenance set by your car manufacturer. You can also have it repaired when you detect the signs of a bad catalytic converter early and have it fixed immediately.
- Loose gas cap
Why is your check engine light on? The answer to this question can sometimes be as simple as a loose gas cap. It is considered as one of the most common causes why the check engine light illuminates. The gas cap, as simple or small as it is, plays a very important role in the fuel delivery system of the car. It keeps fuel fumes from escaping the fuel tank.
A loose gas cap can set off the check engine light to alert the driver about it since there should be a vacuum seal made with the cap when it is tightened. The gas cap helps keep the entire fuel delivery system under the correct pressure. If you notice that your check engine light has come one right after you filled up your gas tank, you will have to pull over, check your gas cap, and make sure that it is not loose.
You should also inspect it and look for any signs of crack, damage, or if the seal is broken. If it is, then you will have to replace it with a new one since it can also set off your check engine light. You can usually purchase a new one for around $15.
- Bad oxygen sensor
The oxygen or O2 sensor is responsible for monitoring the amount of unburned oxygen which is in the exhaust when the exhaust leaves the engine. A car is usually equipped with two or four of this type of sensor. If there is too much or too little of this unburned oxygen, it can potentially damage the other components of the engine.
That is why when the system detects that there is a problem with your oxygen sensor, it will trigger the check engine light to come on. This problem needs to be repaired right away since it can increase your car’s fuel consumption and emissions and if ignored for a long time, it can damage your catalytic converter.
- Faulty spark plugs or problems with the ignition coil
Faulty or worn spark plugs can lead to a number of problems such as engine misfires and hesitation. It is an important component since it is responsible for delivering a spark for effective fuel combustion. A faulty spark plug can also set off your check engine light and when it does, it should be fixed immediately since it can cause a number of problems.
Issues with the ignition coil can also be the answer to the question, “why is your check engine light on?”. The ignition coil is the one that creates the electricity needed by the spark plugs to ignite the air and fuel mixture in the cylinders. If this component should become faulty, it will trigger the check engine light to alert you since it can also cause many problems if left unattended.
- Bad mass airflow sensor
The mass airflow sensor of a car is responsible for monitoring the amount of air that enters the engine. It also sends data to the car’s computer to tell it how much fuel should go in. If it becomes faulty, it may cause your check engine light to illuminate and you will also experience symptoms such as difficulty starting, rough idling stalling, increased emissions, or a sudden change of the throttle pedal position.
The mass airflow sensor can become faulty when your car’s air filter is dirty, clogged, or is improperly installed. Clogged or dirty air filters can block or limit the airflow which causes the mass airflow sensor to fail. If you notice this problem, you need to have it checked and repaired immediately.
- Faulty EGR valve
The EGR or exhaust gas recirculation valve is the one that maintains a lower nitrogen oxide level that comes out of the engine of your car. It does this by redirecting the said exhaust gas back into the combustion chamber to cool it down. Many cars today are equipped with a valve that is controlled electrically, capable of opening and closing from the car’s onboard computer. When the system detects that the flow is somewhat off, it will set off the check engine light to alert the driver.
This valve can begin to stick and clog up the system when the carbon builds up. If you do a visual inspection under your hood, you may be able to detect it. To correct the problem, you may be able to clean the valve, but some cars have valves that can’t be accessed easily. If the build up becomes excessive, you may have to replace the faulty EGR valve as well as a new gasket to fix the issue.
Is Your Check Engine Light On? – Is it OK to Drive with the Check Engine Light On?
Why is your check engine light on? This might be the first thing that comes to mind when you see that your check engine light is illuminating. The next will probably be, is it okay to drive with the check engine light on? The answer to that question can vary. Some scenarios will need urgent attention while some just require you to check some minor components. So what will you do when your check engine light is turned on?
- Assess the situation
You need to determine if the check engine light only comes on or flashes in certain conditions. If you notice that your check engine light only comes on while you are driving in the city but disappears when you are on the freeway, then it means that the problem is only triggered in city driving conditions.
When this happens, you need to check whether the car runs differently whenever the check engine light is turned on. If there is a difference, you need to drive your car with caution, as little or slowly as possible and have it checked immediately. You also need to pay close attention to any unusual noises or odors while you are driving. If there is none, you can still drive it home and assess the problem there. Make sure that you do inspect it and see what caused it and fix it.
How your check engine light illuminates can also help you determine whether it is still okay to drive with an illuminating check engine light. If the check engine light is on and steady, you can keep driving as long as you don’t notice any difference on how it runs or notice any strange noises or smells.
However, if the check engine light is flashing, then it means that the problem needs urgent attention. If the light continues to blink as you drive, it is your car telling you that there is a serious problem. You will have to slow down, pull over to a safe area, stop the car, and turn the engine off. If you continue to drive your car in this condition, you may cause further damage to it. You will have to call for help and have it serviced immediately.
- Do not ignore the warning signs
If you have assessed the problem and it calls for immediate attention, do not ignore it. The check engine light is illuminating for a reason, it might seem just a flashing light, but there is so much more going on inside your system. You need to have it checked to determine what that problem is. You or the mechanic will usually know what caused it by checking any stored fault codes in your system. You will be able to read the stored code by using a diagnostic tool. After that, the mechanic will then recommend the appropriate repair to correct the problem and turn off the illuminating check engine light.
Is your check engine light on? Is the light flashing or steady? What does it mean? Knowing the answers to these questions can help prevent potential problems which can be very expensive to repair. How you react or how fast you react when you notice an illuminating check engine light will matter. You will never know if the light has been triggered by a minor problem or a serious problem. You need to have your car checked immediately to be sure.