Check Engine Light

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What Is A Check Engine Light?

The check engine light, also known as the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light), is a signal from your vehicle’s “engine computer” that something is wrong. Yes, your car has an ECU computer that does the work to make it run more efficiently.

When you start your car, the ECU runs a series of tests across the powertrain (everything required for a car to keep delivering power to the wheels) to ensure everything is functional. Let’s decipher what it means.

In other words, the check engine light, also known as the malfunction indicator light, usually indicates that your car has an engine problem. However, it can occur for various reasons, ranging from a simple loose gas cap to a more serious faulty catalytic converter.

Furthermore, the cause of the light varies depending on the year, make, and model of the vehicle.

Where Did The Idea Of A Warning Light Come From?

The Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit, Michigan, invented the first check engine light. They began installing idiot lights (real name) into their vehicles in the 1930’s. Idiot lights were warning lights that served as indicators of serious engine problems.

Because these lights were binary, they only illuminated when there was a major problem with the vehicle. That means they didn’t give you much notice before your car broke down. Idiot lights were ineffective, but they remained popular until the 1980’s. They were phased out then to avoid confusion with new technology.

What Is The Most Common Check Engine Light Problem?

The check engine light has illuminated your dashboard, which is every car owner’s worst nightmare. This is a sure sign of problems under the hood of your car, and it’s difficult to say how serious those problems are.

It could be a simple fix or a problem that leaves you stranded and costs you thousands of dollars if not addressed quickly. In either case, getting to the bottom of the problem as quickly as possible is critical.

Common Causes of Illuminated Check Engine Light

Problem With The Gas Cap

Of all the possible causes for your check engine light to be on, this one may be the simplest and least expensive to resolve. The check engine light will illuminate in some vehicles if the gas cap is missing, loose, or damaged.

Gas fumes can escape from your vehicle into the atmosphere if the gas cap does not seal your fuel system adequately. Because of this evaporation, you will lose fuel and must fill up your vehicle more frequently.

Oxygen Sensor Malfunction

A faulty oxygen sensor is one of the most common causes of a check engine light. Your local auto repair shop can instantly change it, restoring your vehicle’s ability to measure unburned oxygen in its exhaust system.

Until you replace this part, your engine will burn more fuel than it needs to, reducing fuel economy. A new oxygen sensor will also help you avoid damage to your catalytic converter and spark plugs.

Faulty Spark Plugs

The spark plugs in your vehicle are in charge of igniting the fuel in the combustion chamber. The spark plug wires receive their spark from the ignition coil. Your check engine light could illuminate due to a problem with your spark plug wires or the plugs themselves.

Neglecting this issue may result in a clogged catalytic converter, damaged ignition coils, or oxygen sensor issues. Spark plugs in good condition are also important for maintaining your vehicle’s power and fuel economy.

Bad Catalytic Converter

Ordinarily, the catalytic converter fails after all other engine problems have been ignored. If yours isn’t working, your vehicle will run hot, waste fuel, and stop performing as well as it used to.

To pass an emissions test, you must also have a functional catalytic converter responsible for reducing carbon monoxide emissions.

Different Types of  Check Engine Lights

If it appears, your check engine light will likely be bright orange. This indicates that the engine or other components need attention. If this happens, there’s no need to panic and pull over right away. If something is tragically wrong with the engine, you would be able to tell due to experiencing unusual handling or hearing noises while driving.

A strobing check engine light is the other type of light you may experience. This may also be displayed as a solid red light depending on your vehicle’s make (instead of orange).

Is It Ok To Drive With The Check Engine Light On?

It is not advisable to drive with the check engine light on for an extended period of time. This light serves as a warning that there may be an issue with your vehicle’s engine or emission system, and continuing to drive with the light on can potentially cause further damage to your car’s components.

While the issue may be minor, it could also indicate a more serious problem that requires immediate attention. Ignoring the check engine light can lead to more costly repairs down the line and can even lead to breakdowns on the road.

It’s best to have your vehicle inspected by a qualified technician as soon as possible so they can run diagnostic tests to understand the issue and take necessary actions to get your car back to optimal performance.

Book an Appointment with Superior Tire & Auto

Superior Tire & Auto is a full-service auto repair facility that can handle all of your car’s needs.  If you are having trouble with your check engine light, contact us today to book an appointment to evaluate the cause.   You can also visit a location near you today and receive the Superior Service you deserve!