Check Engine Light

All passenger vehicles created since 1996 need an on-board diagnostics system. The OBD system monitors the car’s performance. If something triggers a sensor in the system, the OBD turns on the check engine light.

The problem is, the check engine light alone won’t tell you what’s wrong with the car. Car issues can range from the electrical system to the exhaust system. 

To know for sure what triggered the check engine light, you need to consult the computer. Most car owners don’t have an easy way to check the computer’s codes. 

What can you do instead? Check your car for these 3 common problems first.

1. Look at the Spark Plugs

Spark plugs create sparks that burn fuel in the engine’s combustion chamber. Missing or broken spark plugs reduce the engine’s power. If the problem isn’t fixed, it could cause catalytic converter issues.

Don’t forget to examine the spark plug wires, as well. Without a secure connection, the spark plug won’t work. A misfiring spark plug wastes fuel as you drive.

2. Check for Leaks in the Exhaust System

Your car’s exhaust system pulls harmful fumes away from the engine. The carbon monoxide converts to an inert gas in the catalytic converter. The inert gasses pass through the muffler and quietly leave the car.

The exhaust system stretches the entire length of the car and includes:

  • Exhaust manifold
  • Exhaust pipes
  • Oxygen sensors
  • Catalytic converter
  • Air injection tube
  • Exhaust resonator
  • Muffler
  • Exhaust pipe

Finding leaks in the exhaust system takes specialized tools and a lift. You could be looking at a muffler replacement or new exhaust pipes.

Exhaust leaks can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and possibly death. If you smell something weird after the check engine light comes on, see a mechanic.

3. Search for Cracks in the Vacuum Lines

Do you live in an area that hits over 90* F in the summer and freezing during winter? Extreme weather is the primary cause of cracked vacuum hoses. The thin hoses expand and contract too much when the weather changes.

The vacuum system helps boost the braking system. It draws gas fumes away from the engine.

The vacuum system also affects the throttle. If there is a leak in the system, your car will idle at a high RPM.

Tracking down a thin crack in the massive vacuum system needs professional insight. Yes, the hoses are cheap enough to make you consider the DIY approach. But do you have time to search the entire engine for a tiny leak?

Track Down the Source of the Check Engine Light ASAP

The check engine light warns you about car problems that can lead to disaster. A check engine light blinking instead of staying on means you should visit a mechanic today. 

If you’re lucky, your car problems are something simple. The check engine light could mean the gas cap is loose. It can also mean you need a $600 catalytic converter repair.

Don’t let fears over a large mechanic bill ruin your vehicle. Investigate the source of the check engine light during your weekend off to stay safe.

If you’re looking for more advice on car maintenance, check out the rest of our blog. We have tons of knowledgeable articles to help you keep your car running.