This month, let’s go over your car’s check engine light. When it illuminates, it does not mean open the hood and check to see if the engine is there. This light is designed to point you to many different problems your car may be experiencing. Today’s cars are run by efficient computerized systems that constantly monitor performance. When a problem is detected, the check engine light will illuminate in the dash to let the driver know a problem has been detected. In some cases, the light might go off by itself and then come back on later. In other cases, the check engine light will come on and remain on. Fortunately, when the check engine light is triggered, the car’s computer system should log one or more codes that can help point the mechanic toward the source of the problem.
Engines have a number of systems that work together to provide excellent performance under normal circumstances. Most of the cars on the road today have electronic fuel injection. The electronic fuel injection system uses different sensors to ensure the correct amount of air and fuel which are fed to the engine to create the right combustion mixture. Timing of the spark is also controlled electronically. If any one of these systems fails, this can trigger the check engine light. Leaving your gas cap off after refueling your car can also trigger the check engine light. Another event that is often responsible for making the check engine light come on is a vacuum leak. In this case, it possibly could be a leak in a hose or an intake manifold. A visual inspection can help, but in some cases a vacuum leak can be very difficult to locate.
Other problems that can trip the check engine light include a sticky exhaust recirculation valve (EGR), or more seriously, a blown head gasket. Deteriorated fuel injectors may also be a culprit. Because there are so many possible reasons for the check engine light to come on, your mechanic will use a diagnostic computer to retrieve the codes for the event so he or she can identify the problem when the problem is not immediately evident. Even if the check engine light is only on a short time, a code will be stored in the ECU for later retrieval. A check-engine light doesn’t always mean a big problem or an expensive repair. However, driving a car with the check engine light on could mean that you are doing further damage to the engine, depending on the problem. I learned that I didn’t need to go to a dealership or another garage to find out why the check engine light was lit. I didn’t even need to buy any special equipment to find out why it was lit.
Today you can take your car to many different auto parts stores and tell the guy at the counter “my check engine light is on.” He will plug a hand-held electronic device into your car, and tell you why the check engine light is lit. At least you will go to your mechanic or dealership with knowledge, which might help you keep the cost down. With knowledge of the problem, they can’t B.S. you. In the end, it is always best to get your vehicle checked by your mechanic.
Enjoy the nice spring weather, and happy motoring.
This article is sponsored by a generous donation from M&S of Pawling. http://www.mandsofpawling.com/