Why is my check engine light on?
Imagine ignoring your doctor who has just read the results of some bloodwork and said, “this number right here looks a little concerning.” Not paying attention to your Check Engine Light is kind of like that.
What can the Engine Service light mean?
An Engine Service light can mean several things depending on when it appears and how it behaves. Generally a steady light where you don’t notice any other obvious signs of trouble is just a sensor saying “hey, get this checked when you get a minute.” A blinking light, however, is definitely trying to get your attention right away. Take it seriously and pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. And definitely don’t keep going if your car is suddenly overheating, shaking, or making really loud noises along with the Engine Service light!
Here are a few common reasons for an Engine Service light to come on:
- Failed oxygen sensor. Most cars have 2-4 of these, and if one fails or gets obstructed by oil or dirt for some reason it will trigger a warning light. A bad O2 sensor will result in poor gas mileage, and if left unchecked could end up causing extensive (and expensive) damage to your catalytic converter.
- Faulty mass airflow sensor. This sensor tells your engine how much fuel to allow into the combustion chamber in order to get the optimal results based on how much air is coming into the engine. When it isn’t working right, it could result in poor gas mileage at best or a completely stalled car at worst.
- Cracked or loose gas cap.
- Worn-out spark plugs or wires.
- Damaged or disconnected hoses.
Contact us as soon as possible if you encounter any of these issues.
How does the Engine Service light work?
Your car’s Engine Service light, also known as a Check Engine or Malfunction Indicator Light, is a warning system put there to let you know if there is a problem with your vehicle. The engine light can come on for literally hundreds of reasons.
And just going to your local parts house to get a “free diagnosis” is not a diagnosis at all! Just scanning for codes is by no means a diagnosis (it will get you to the neighborhood but it can’t get you to the house). So don’t replace parts based on codes because in many cases you will be wasting your money!
Most newer cars actually have a couple of different Engine Service lights. One is a general Service Light that is timed to come on a certain intervals or is triggered by mileage or fuel levels. It is just a friendly reminder that your car is due for some routine maintenance.
The other is what most people are familiar with as the Check Engine light. It comes on only when something goes wrong, and its job is to let you know when you have a problem. It is controlled by the computer that is constantly monitoring your car through a series of sensors (call it the “On-Board Diagnostics System” if you want to impress your mechanic). When something is not quite right, the computer will turn on the scary yellow Check Engine light to get your attention.
Why should I pay attention to my Engine Service light?
Imagine ignoring your doctor who has just read the results of some bloodwork and said, “this number right here looks a little concerning.” Not paying attention to your Check Engine light is kind of like that. Oh, sure…you could leave the doctor’s office and go on about your life. And for the next several days/weeks/months you’d think “I don’t know what the big deal is…I feel fine.” Then one day, as you’re being wheeled into the ER, you decide that little cholesterol or blood pressure number wasn’t so insignificant after all.
Deciding to do nothing is still deciding to act. When the Check Engine light comes on, your car is giving you a chance to fix a problem before it turns into a big one.
What do we do when you bring your car in because of the Engine Service light?
Our experienced service technicians will begin by testing your vehicle to determine the necessary system that needs to focused on. We then use proper equipment to allow us to live-stream data from each of your car’s sensors. We can also connect even more sophisticated equipment to your car to pinpoint the problem.
It is a common misconception that you connect a computer to your vehicle and it “tells” you what the problem is and what to replace. Each system on your vehicle that has a problem usually requires separate testing with different equipment across all platforms. Think of going to the doctor and the ache in your back may require an MRI and other problems may require blood analysis.
But don’t worry, we can get you back on the road of life and give you peace of mind. Once we know where the problem is, we will let you know what we find. We will then make recommendations on to how to best fix the problem and work with you to determine the best way to move forward. Every situation is different, and we care enough about you and your car to not dismiss anything.
When you come to [atc], one thing is for sure…we won’t be the ones to put a piece of black tape over the light and call it “fixed.”
Click here to set up an appointment. Or call one of our locations today:
atc Auto Center, Augusta
atc Auto Center, Grovetown
Engine Service Light Tips
- Don’t be scared. The Engine Service light is probably one of the most intimidating things a car owner will face. It appears on your dash without any warning or the courtesy of an explanation. And it refuses to go away until you do something. While it can be unnerving we can help you get back on the road of life!
- Ignorance is bliss…only for a little while. While it is convenient to just look the other way with a lot of things in life, it is never a good idea to ignore your Engine Service light. You could be causing serious damage down the road.
- Put on your cap. Sometimes the Engine Service light is triggered by a loose gas cap which can allow fumes to leak out and confuse the system. Simply making sure the gas cap is tight could solve a problem, so that’s a good (and free) place to start.