Why you shouldn’t ignore your vehicles Check Engine Light

You are out in your vehicle enjoying a lovely drive, but a quick look at the dashboard causes you sudden concern, you spot the orange check engine light is illuminated….

But wait, the vehicle hasn’t changed, it’s still running, and everything seems fine, so no worries, it must be ok to continue indefinitely, right……WRONG!!! This is one light you should not ignore. It is telling you that something has failed and will cause damage to your vehicle which could end up being a costly repair.

When the light goes on you might not experience any immediate issues with your vehicle. But just because the vehicle continues to run ok. It might be that the vehicle is able to override the cause, however over time and distance this problem will become a bigger issue, affecting other systems and sensors.

You might notice it is flashing or that it is a steady light, depending on the manufacturer this could mean you have an urgent problem. In which case: pull over, stop and call for assistance or an issue that might not need immediate attention, but will need booking into a garage.

Your local friendly garage will plug a diagnostic tool into a port just under the dashboard, where it will download codes which will tell the technician what has happened to your vehicle.

5 Common reasons for this warning light are:

  1. Lost or missing fuel cap: It might surprise you to know, but if this is loose or cracked it will affect the whole fuel system, resulting in higher fuel consumption and emissions.
  2. Bad Oxygen sensor: This sensor gets covered in oily ash reducing the sensors ability to monitor the unburnt oxygen from the exhaust and how much fuel is being burned. A faulty sensor will cause incorrect data to be sent to the vehicles computer resulting in decrease fuel mileage and increasing emissions.
  3. Catalytic Converter: This helps to protect the environment by converting harmful carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. If you don’t ensure maintenance of this part, your vehicle will fail emissions tests, you will also experience reduced performance and the vehicle might run higher temperatures.
  4. Mass Airflow sensor: This measures the amount of air entering the engine to determine how much fuel is needed to run the engine efficiently. If this is faulty it can damage the spark plugs, O2 sensors and catalytic converter.
  5. Spark Plus: These ignite the air/fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. If not replaced you will experience poor performance, and reduced fuel economy. Worn plugs and plug wires can cause clogging of the catalytic converter or damage to the ignition coils and O2 sensors.

So is it safe to continue with your journey with this light on…. take a moment to see if the car is driving differently. If it is bucking or surging or there are unusual sounds, stop. If, however, you are not experiencing any of these symptoms and the car seems to be driving normally continue with your journey. BUT, it still means there is something wrong somewhere in the emissions system which will need investigating as soon as you are able to. Not repairing it could lead to more serious and expensive damage further down the road.

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