Check Engine Light On? What Is Yours Saying?

We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the road, full tank of gas, not a care in the world, when a glance down at the dashboard reveals an illuminated icon. The ol’ Check Engine Light has come on. As part of an automobile’s onboard diagnostics (OBD), the icon lights up to alert the driver that the computer has sensed something out of the “normal” range of operation.

What could the Check Engine Light mean?

Depending on the year, make and model of the vehicle, there are a hundred-plus possibilities. Here are a few of the more common potential causes:

  • Malfunctioning sensors – Two possible culprits are the oxygen sensor and the mass air flow sensor. The oxygen sensor measures the amount of oxygen in the exhaust that’s unburned and the air flow sensor monitors the amount of air going to the engine. In either case, fuel economy could suffer if left unrepaired.
  • A loose gas cap – Honestly, simply tightening the gas cap may fix the problem. Or the gas cap may need to be replaced if it’s not holding the seal as gas evaporates from the automobile. The good news is this is a fairly inexpensive fix.
  • Spark plugs – Keep in mind most spark plugs need to be replaced approximately every 45,000 miles. Luckily, average spark plugs cost only a few dollars each and can be replaced quickly and easily.
  • Catalytic Converter – As an important key to filtering out an engine’s toxic exhaust emissions, a catalytic converter can cost upward of $1,500 or more to replace. A title loan could help with this expense.

So what should you do?

No matter what has caused the light to come on, it’s best to get it looked at immediately to prevent possible damage to your car. Find a certified dealer or auto mechanic to perform a check engine light code read or, better yet, a full computer diagnostic run to accurately pinpoint the problem. Usually under $100, these tests can get to the root of the issue and present a possible solution. Once that illuminated Check Engine Light is turned off, you’ll be back on the road with peace of mind.

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