Having a car, whether itís old or new, sure makes life easier. It brings you to your destination with comfort and convenience. It keeps you away from the crowd of commuters who wait for the bus every day, plus it saves you time to get to and from your work. I bet many of you want to have one since the day you turned eighteen and legally right to drive. But, despite the many great things we can benefit from owning one, consider that it also comes with greater responsibilities. You have to armor yourself with knowledge in order to keep yourself safe from driving your car.
This is for the new drivers out there who seem to have little knowledge or are unfamiliar with what the check engine signal truly tells you. If you find car manuals too overwhelming, or when you have bought a used car with no manuals, then this oneís for you.
Do not freak out when the check engine light is on. Hereís everything you need to know about it.
What does a check engine light on my car indicate?
A check engine light indicates a malfunction in your car.
Where can I find this light?
This light can be found on the control panel/instrument panel of most automobiles. Itís on the car dashboard and is located right ahead of the driverís seat.
How does it look?
A car may bear different engine light legends. The light appears in a red or amber color when illuminated. It comes in an engine pictogram and some appear in a word form such as check engine, service engine soon, maintenance required, or emiss maint.
What are the two stages of a check engine light?
A steady light indicates a minor fault while a flashing light indicates a severe fault.
What's the first thing to do when it's on?
There are many reasons why your check engine light is on. Donít panic. Push the hazard button of your car, find the nearest place where you can park, and assess what are the possible causes.
How can I pre-assess before driving?
The computerized engine management system can detect a malfunction in your engine that makes this warning appear. If you are a keen observer, you will notice that whenever you start your car, this light turns on. And if there are no problems detected, it automatically comes off.
What are the possible causes why the check engine light comes on?
Defective Oxygen Sensor
An Oxygen Sensor measures the amount of oxygen in your exhaust system. It sends the calculated amount of oxygen to the car computer so that it can adjust the fuel mixture and the engineís air. When the oxygen sensor is defective; 1) you will use up more fuel than needed and will get fewer miles/km per gallon 2) your engine will burn more fuel than needed that may lead to producing more emissions, and 3) It can damage your spark plugs and catalytic converter. This is actually not a severe problem, but better bring your car to your trusted mechanic and get it fixed as soon as possible.
Mass Airflow Sensor(MAF) needs replacement
This sensor functions to determine the amount of fuel needed based on the amount of air entering the engine to run it efficiently. A common cause of MAF Sensor failure is when itís not properly installed or when the air filter is dirty. This shouldnít be considered as an emergency, however, if you donít get it replaced, you may feel that your car doesnít perform well like before, affecting your fuel economy. Fuel Economy is the relationship between the distance traveled by a vehicle and the amount of fuel consumed. Defective MAF sensor can also cause damage to the oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, or spark plugs. You will also feel a rough engine sound even when your car is idle. Your carís air intake is technical, thus, you need to get it fixed by a professional.
Spark Plugs/Plug Wires are Faulty
Spark plugs are a device that ignites the compressed fuel/air mixture by an electric spark in the combustion chamber of your car. Spark Plug Wires, on the other hand, delivers the spark from the ignition coil to the spark plugs. Itís important that you check your car manual to know your carís maintenance schedule. But like I said, if youíre a buyer of a used car, manuals may be nowhere to be found, so make sure to have a professional run a regular maintenance service on your car. If you do not replace these immediately, you will experience reduced power in your car and reduced fuel economy. Worn plugs and wires can also clog the catalytic converter and can cause damage to ignition coils and oxygen sensors. You will see that these problems are interconnected to each other, hence, signs like these shouldnít be ignored.
Damaged/Loose Gas Cap
A damaged, loose, or missing gas cap can cause your engine light to appear. A gas cap seals the fuel system and maintains the pressure within the fuel tank. It may be that your fuel system has a vapor leak. It may be a minor or a serious problem depending on what part or portion of the fuel system is damaged. When you see the steady check engine light on, pull over to the side and you may check the gas cap if itís tightened properly. If you see that itís loose, then itís a sign that you need to replace it immediately. You may continue driving your car as it is not that urgent but itís much better if you continue driving to see your mechanic. Your fuel will evaporate and it will cost you more money. You may not notice it immediately, but you will visit the gas station more often for a refill.
Failing Ignition Coil
Ignition Coil is a part of your carís ignition system. It is the one responsible for generating the engine spark. Ang because it directly affects the engine, any problem such as burns or shorts, may cause your check engine light to come on.
Bad or Faulty Catalytic Converter
This device on your car converts harmful gases such as carbon monoxide produced by your car into carbon dioxide. It only means that it controls the emission of your car to be environment-friendly. You will not pass an emission test if you will just neglect this damage in your car. You may also notice your temperature gauge to go higher than usual, or you may experience that your car has poor performance. If this is the damage, do not drive further as you may make more damage to your car. Changing this part of your car is expensive.
These signs are for that stage wherein your check engine light is steady.
If the light is flashing, itís totally a different story. You have to push the hazard button right away and pull over at a safe spot. This signals that thereís some serious damage in your car that needs immediate attention. It often tells that there is an engine misfire. Do not risk it because some pricey parts of your car may be damaged. Having it towed to your mechanic is a lesser expense.
Staying calm is necessary, but, you also shouldnít ignore it if itís onÖ even if itís steady, or if it disappears yet reappears at a given time. It prompts you for a reason and itís important to address it right away. You shouldnít freak out, though. A car is a machine, of course it will eventually have problems. Itís better if you have your mechanicís phone number, a towing companyís direct number, and an emergency contact person that will help you in this kind of emergency. But, to avoid any problems like this, do your own research, read the manuals, and save some money to keep your service maintenance right on schedule.
Every new car owner should understand that thereís more to enjoying a carÖ thereís more to the convenience it gives you... and thereís more to having it driven. If you can spend a fortune to make it cool and flashy on the outside, make sure the inside is equally dope. Youíd rather have a nasty looking car that performs well than a cool looking one that has a lot of faulty parts. They are babies you need to check up on, maintain, observe, and take care of so that it would also keep you away from harm.
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