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What to Do When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

What should I do when my check engine light turns on

Ten percent of all cars on the road have a Check Engine light on, and the drivers of half of these cars have ignored the light for more than three months, says Kristin Brocoff, a spokesperson for It’s important to promptly address problems indicated by this signal. Ignoring them could later lead to larger, more costly repairs. The light may indicate a costly issue, like a bad catalytic converter. Or, it could mean something minor, such as a loose gas cap. In most cases, the best thing to do is to visit he car dealer a trained professional. At Heritage Auto Repair, they can diagnose and fix your problem. Here are several important possibilities that show why you must bring your car in for service if this light comes on:

Your Oxygen (O2) Sensor needs to be replaced.

This device measures the amount of unburned oxygen in your vehicle’s exhaust system. If you don’t replace it, your engine will burn more fuel than needed You will experience loss of fuel economy (up to 40% if ignored). Faulty sensors. can cause damage to your spark plugs and catalytic converter.

Your gas cap is loose, damaged or missing.

A loose cap sends an error message to the car’s computer. It reports a leak in the vapor recovery system, which is one aspect of a car’s emissions system. Additionally, it seals the fuel system and helps maintain pressure within the fuel tank as well as prevents gasoline fumes (hydrocarbons) from being released into the atmosphere while you aren’t driving. If this is not taken care of, your car can lose fuel through evaporation. This can necessitate more trips to the gas pump.

Your Catalytic Converter needs replaced.

This device helps protect our environment by converting harmful carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. Damage usually occurs due to neglected maintenance. If this goes on, your vehicle will not pass an emissions test. You will experience reduced performance and fuel economy and your car may run at a higher temperature.

Your Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) needs to be replaced.

Your mass airflow sensor measures the amount of air entering the engine to determine how much fuel is needed to run your engine efficiently. If you don’t replace it, faulty sensors can cause damage to spark plugs, O2 sensors or your catalytic converter. You will experience reduced performance and worsened fuel economy.

Your spark plugs are bad.

They ignite the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber of your vehicle. The spark plug wires deliver the spark from the ignition coil to the spark plugs. With bad spark plugs, you will experience poor performance. This can include reduced power and reduced fuel economy. Worn plugs and plug wires can create a clogged catalytic converter or damage to ignition coils and O2 sensors.

You have an older car that is releasing excess pollutants or consuming too much gas.

Such a vehicle will not pass state inspection. Some drivers with older cars want to squeeze out as many remaining miles as possible without visiting a mechanic. But before they can pass their state’s vehicle inspection, they have to get the light turned off.

Anyone can buy inexpensive code readers to search for the code’s meaning. But even with the code and its meaning, do-it-yourself interpretation can be tricky, even for those who are mechanically inclined. Experts say that many drivers confuse the “service required” light on the gauge cluster for the Check Engine light. These warning lights are unrelated. The service required light just means the car is due for an oil change or other routine maintenance. It is not the indicator of trouble that the Check Engine light is.

“If the light begins flashing, it indicates a more serious problem, such as a misfire that can quickly overheat the catalytic converter. These emissions devices operate at high temperatures to cut emissions, but can pose a fire hazard if faulty,” according to expert Dan Edmunds.

When the Check Engine light comes on, many people do nothing. Sometimes they are afraid of an expensive repair bill.  But the system is primarily designed to continuously monitor a car’s emissions system. This is absolutely vital to know because the engine and the emission control system are intertwined. Simply put, the health of the emission control system is a good indication of the general health of the car’s engine.

So don’t ignore that Check Engine light! For a shop that knows how to treat customers right, visit Heritage Auto Repar.

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