What Your Check Engine Light Means (and 3 Reasons It Might Be On)

Having your Check Engine Light come on usually comes with groans of frustration and worries about what’s gone wrong. An illuminated Check Engine Light can mean anything, from something as small as a failing sensor or missed connection to a bigger, more complex problem with your engine. It’s easy to ignore problems instead of face them head on, but doing this doesn’t do you any favors and is harmful to your engine and personal safety in the long run. Our team at Courtesy Auto and Tire of Tacoma has compiled this list to help you understand your check engine light and what to do when it comes on. 

Is it Flashing or Solid?

In most cases, a steadily lit Check Engine Light means that your vehicle’s ECU (Electronic Control Unit) is picking up a signal from your engine’s sensors that there is some kind of problem. However, sometimes the ECU sensor can be faulty and misreading signals.

Multiple lights on at once can help you put the clues together and get a better picture of what’s happening with your engine. 

If your light is steadily lit you can still drive, but it’s best to get it checked out as soon as you possibly can.  

A flashing Check Engine Light is a sign of a serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. If you’re driving and notice your light begin to flash, pull over immediately, as driving could cause further damage and could put you in danger. 

3 Common Reasons Your Check Engine Light Might Be On 

There are many reasons your Check Engine Light might be on. Here are 3 of the most common reasons:

  1. Loose gas cap. Your gas cap plays an import part in containing gasoline vapor from leaving your tank and entering the air. It’s key in sealing off your tank So when your gas cap is left off or comes loose, your engine takes note quickly so that the leak gets fixed ASAP.
  2. Failing (or failed) oxygen sensors. Oxygen sensors measure how much unburned oxygen is in your car’s exhaust system. Sensors don’t last forever and typically fail once a car has reached over 80,000. It’s a simple fix, but putting it off can lead to loss in fuel economy and damaged spark plugs. 
  3. Faulty catalytic converter. Catalytic Converters are responsible for converting carbon monoxide into CO2 (carbon dioxide). If this fails, oxygen sensors meant to monitor your converter’s performance will go off, illuminating your check engine light code. It’s important to note that, usually, there is something else that causes a catalytic converter to fail. Simply replacing your converter may not solve the problem, so further investigation and repair is necessary. 

Checking Yourself Versus Taking It In to A Shop

There are ways to check your own check engine light yourself. So why take it in to a shop at all?

While it’s possible to invest in an OBD-II reader and pull codes yourself, pulling code doesn’t actually address the problem and tell you the solution. It simple tells you the system affected, with no other details given on what should be done to fix it. 

Our team at Courtesy Auto and Tire of Tacoma receives ongoing training that allows us to accurately diagnose and treat an issue. Our technicians are knowledgeable in deciphering code(s) and utilizing specialized diagnostic equipment to find out exactly what’s going on. Years of ongoing training and specialization insures that your car gets fixed and the problem gets solved. 

This helpful video explains in simple terms why you should take your car to the pros.

If your Check Engine Light is on, schedule an appointment at Courtesy Auto.

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