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Why the ‘Check Engine’ Light May Come On

Many people tell the same story—they’re driving along or maybe just turned the car on when they suddenly realized there was a light illuminating from the dashboard politely telling them to “check engine.” For a lot of car owners, they usually have no idea what might be wrong when this light comes on. Check engine lights are among the most mystifying of all your dashboard lights—and likely the most ominous. While a TPMS light coming on might elicit some concern, it’s a whole other ball game when something might be wrong with the engine, which, in many ways, is the heart that drives the vehicle forward.

An active check engine light could mean several things—from something as simple as a loosened gas cap to as serious as a misfiring engine. This doesn’t mean you must jump ship and pull the car over immediately, but it would be wise to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have your car looked over. To get an idea of what might be wrong with your engine, check out the list of possibilities below and become familiar for when you head to the mechanic.

Oxygen Sensor Requires Replacing

A car’s oxygen sensor determines how much unburned oxygen is in the exhaust system. Vehicles with failed oxygen sensors will seem be to operating normally, but they generally won’t pass an emissions test.

Damaged, Missing, or Loose Gas Cap

Gas caps seal vehicles’ fuel systems and help to maintain pressure in fuel tanks. A gas cap also keeps gasoline fumes from releasing into the air when you’re not driving.

Catalytic Converter Requires Replacing

Catalytic converters help to protect the environment by turning damaging carbon monoxide into safe carbon dioxide. Damage to the catalytic convertor often happens because of neglected maintenance. Vehicles that lack a properly functioning catalytic converter will stall and won’t able to drive because of eventual engine failure.

Inadequate Flow in the EGR Valve

Exhaust gas recirculation or EGR is a technique for emissions reduction, which works by recirculating part of the engine’s exhaust back into the engine’s cylinders. However, when EGR valves aren’t working properly or are clogged, engine performance drops. Any time drivers experience valve knocks or rough idling, they should get their EGR valve inspected.

Mass Airflow Sensor Needs Replacing

The mass airflow sensor measures how much air is entering an engine in order to determine the amount of fuel that’s required to run an engine efficiently. If your car’s MAF needs to be replaced, the engine’s power could decrease.

Spark Plugs or Spark Plug Wires Require Replacing

Spark plugs ignite the fuel/air mixture in your vehicle’s combustion chamber while spark plug wires carry the spark to your spark plugs from your ignition coil. Failure to replace either engine component will eventually cause the engine to fail.

A flashing or blinking dashboard light often points to a more serious issue. When this happens, make an appointment to get the issue looked at immediately. If you choose to neglect the warning, you could damage expensive components of your engine.

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