Why Your Check Engine Light Is On

You’re driving along, and everything is going fine. Then, seemingly for no reason, a warning light appears on your dashboard. You check the manual just to make sure—yep, it’s a check engine light.

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to reasons why a check engine light might be on. The good news is that it might not be anything major. The bad news… well, you get the idea.

Let’s look at why your check engine light might have popped on and what to do about it.

Reasons why a check engine light might be on

The check engine light is a critical part of the car’s on-board diagnostic system. The car’s computer will trigger this warning whenever there’s a problem in the power train (i.e., the engine, transmission and related parts) that could result in higher tailpipe emissions.

For example, one common reason for a check engine light to turn on is that there’s a faulty gas cap. This could cause gas vapors to escape. The same goes for an internal engine issue that results in a misfire and increased hydrocarbon emissions. That said, exactly what triggers a check engine light is dependent on the make and model of your vehicle.

Oxygen sensor failure

Another routine reason for the check engine light to pop on is that the O2 sensor is malfunctioning. This is responsible for measuring the amount of unburned oxygen in the car’s exhaust system. The sensor relays data to the vehicle’s computer, which regulates the mixture of fuel and air entering the engine’s cylinders. With a faulty oxygen sensor, the car will burn more fuel than it needs to. Over time, a lack of a functional O2 sensor can damage the spark plugs and catalytic converter.

Catalytic converter failure

The catalytic converter is part of the car’s exhaust system. It transforms carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. New models will run between $200 and $600 depending on the make and model of your car. Performing regular oil changes is a good practice to keep the catalytic converter in functioning order. If you typically drive short distances, make sure to take the car on the highway occasionally to prevent the catalytic converter from clogging.

Can heat cause a check engine light to come on?

It is possible that excess heat could result in a check engine light turning on. When the weather is hotter, sensors, fuel injectors and other components will heat up as ignition coils fail due to temperature fluctuations. In this case, it’s best to have a professional mechanic perform an inspection.

Whether it’s heat causing a check engine light to come on or another reason, you can trust your vehicle to the pros at A2Z Complete Car Care to take care of your vehicle. We’re a family-owned and -operated shop that delivers service you can trust on everything from engine diagnostics to preventative maintenance to suspension work, brakes and more. Contact us right now to schedule a service appointment with our team.

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