Why Is that Warning Light On?

Check What?

A dashboard light just came on. It says, "Check Engine," but exactly what does that mean? You're probably asking yourself, "What should I be checking?" That pesky little light can mean a lot of different things. The only way to know for sure what has triggered the warning is to identify the trouble code stored in your vehicle's computer by using the appropriate diagnostic equipment. You need professional help -- a reputable shop with good equipment and ASE certified technicians. You need Cochran Automotive in Germantown, Maryland.

The Most Common Issues

While a variety of problems can trigger a check engine warning, there are a few common culprits.

Oxygen Sensor

The most frequently occurring issue, for instance, is an oxygen sensor that needs replacing. Its purpose is to measure how much unburned oxygen remains in your car's exhaust. When this sensor needs replacing, your vehicle does not run at optimal efficiency, causing you to use more fuel than necessary. A faulty sensor can also damage your catalytic converter and spark plugs.

Gas Cap

Another common problem is the gas cap. Although it's a seemingly simple part, if the gas cap is missing, loose, or damaged, it can trigger a check engine alert. The cap keeps fumes from being emitted into the air, seals the fuel system, and facilitates tank pressure maintenance. Lack of a cap or a damaged one can allow your costly fuel to evaporate through a vapor leak.

Catalytic Converter

A malfunctioning catalytic converter may also illuminate the check engine symbol. Modern vehicles have catalytic converters to help protect our environment by converting carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. When this part goes bad, your engine performance and fuel mileage per gallon will suffer, and your vehicle may run at a hotter temperature. Ultimately, the car will not pass state inspection.

Mass Airflow Sensor

A mass airflow sensor that needs attention can cause a check engine alert, as well. This sensor measures how much air is entering the engine, determining how much fuel is necessary for efficient engine performance. Failure to replace a problematic mass airflow sensor reduces performance and mileage. It could also damage the oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, and spark plugs.

Finally, if your car needs new spark plugs or spark plug wires, you may receive the dreaded check engine alert. As the name suggests, the spark plugs ignite the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. You may set your vehicle up for damage to the ignition coils, oxygen sensors, or catalytic converter if you do not replace them.

Your Easiest Way to Turn Off the Light

Considering the number of problems that can potentially trigger the check engine signal, you may feel overwhelmed when that dashboard light comes on. Chances are you don't have the diagnostic equipment needed to determine the exact nature of the problem. One call to Germantown, Maryland's Cochran Automotive is all you need to make the light go off. Our certified experts will accurately diagnose the trouble, recommend a remedy, and make the repairs you approve. Goodbye, check engine light!

Written by Cochran Automotive