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Why Is My Check Engine Light On?

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Even if you’re not an auto parts expert, you know your check engine light is significant. When that little light on your dashboard starts glowing, your vehicle needs your attention.

So what exactly does the check engine light do? What should you do when it goes on? Here’s everything you need to know.

What Does Your Check Engine Light Do?

The check engine light is a warning that something is wrong. It’s important to know whether it’s flashing or a steady light, as those signal different issues.

How do you know it’s the check engine light specifically? Most vehicle models have the phrase “check engine,” a symbol in the shape of an engine or both. Many drivers mistake the “service required” light for “check engine,” so double check before you start worrying.

When You Should Pull Over

If there’s something wrong with your engine, does that mean you need to pull over immediately? Will your car be harmed by driving to a repair shop, or will it be alright for the short trip?

In most cases, it’s fine to keep driving. However, you should call for a tow if you notice any of the following:

  • The light is flashing
  • The car is making strange noises
  • The car is vibrating or jolting

Why Is My Check Engine Light On?

With modern cars, you need to run diagnostics to determine why your check engine light is on. Fortunately, many auto parts stores offer free check engine light diagnostics. Once the computer comes back with a root cause, you can get your vehicle back up and running.

1.  Ignition System Problems

Your ignition system is what starts the engine when you turn the key. If something is wrong with the coil packs or spark plugs, the engine light will go on.

2.  Fuel and Air Delivery Problems

The engine requires a specific balance of fuel and air to run, as combustion requires both. However, sometimes there’s a leak or other problem in the lines.

3.  Electronic Powertrain Controls Problems

The powertrain is the system that makes your vehicle move. It’s complex and has many parts:

  • Wiring
  • Networks
  • Modules
  • Sensors
  • Engine
  • Drivetrain
  • Transmission

The sensors monitor parts to ensure they’re working properly. If something goes wrong, your check engine light turns on. Since the powertrain is so complicated, the only way to identify the problem is to run diagnostics.

4.  Emissions Equipment Problems

All vehicles create exhaust, which is the byproduct of combustion. Cars that run on gasoline have an emissions system designed to minimize harm to the environment. Due to its complex nature, there are many issues that can occur in this system, all of which will ignite the check engine light.

5.  Transmission Problems

The transmission allows your vehicle to move between gears. As part of the powertrain system, it’s heavily monitored. If the transmission isn’t doing its job, you’ll get the check engine light.

When you notice your check engine light on, it’s crucial you get the issue looked at right away. Continuing to drive long distances can cause irreparable damage to your vehicle, which means expensive replacements or even looking for a new car. To ensure your vehicle stays functional, take it to a mechanic as soon as possible.

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