The Meaning and Causes of Check Engine Lamp (and How to Fix It)

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare – the Check Engine Warning Light illuminates on the dash. The Check Engine Warning Light illuminates on the dash and can cause a sinking feeling inside your stomach. This will send you into panic mode.

Be aware that minor problems can lead to your Check Engine Light flashing. This article will explain what Check Engine Lights are, how they can be fixed, and the causes. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. Search Engine Light Significance
  2. What causes a Check Engine Light?
    1. 1. Gas Capacity
    2. 2. Failing Oxygen Sensor
    3. 3. A failing catalytic converter
    4. 4. No Spark Plugs, or Wires
    5. 5. Failure Mass Air Flow Sensor
  3. How do I fix the engine light?
    1. 1. OBD Readers Available
    2. 2. Search for engine codes
    3. 3. You can search the Engine Code
    4. 4. Replace the defective part
    5. 5. Eliminate the Code

Search Engine Light Significance

The Check Engine Light indicates there is something wrong with your engine’s electrical system. This could be caused by a defective engine sensor, or other damage to your engine. Mostly it’s due to something wrong with the emissions control system.

Automakers started standardizing their OBD-II protocols in 1996. The OBD-II protocol provides a listing of trouble codes that can all be read by a universal connector. 

The Check Engine Light illuminates when the car’s computer recognizes a problem. It will either be amber, yellow, or orange depending on what car manufacturer you have. 

The Check Engine Light can shine steadily, which indicates there’s an issue that must be checked out. These problems aren’t generally immediate concerns, but you should get right to the mechanic.

The Check Engine Light flashing red and turning on indicates a serious fault. This is the time to pull your car over and get it towed. 

Many people mistake the Check Engine Light for the service light. This important indicator has a wrench-like shape and says, “Service Now” or “Service Soon.” This light only serves a reminder to get your scheduled maintenance performed and doesn’t indicate an issue.

What causes a Check Engine Light?

A check engine light can be caused by an emission problem, such as a poor oxygen sensor or MAF sensors. You may also experience problems with your ignition, such as bad spark plugs and ignition coils. The check engine light could be due to any problem with the engine.

The Check Engine Light can be used to alert you to minor problems or major issues. These are five of the most frequent reasons that this indicator lights up.

There are many things that could cause it to go on. You can find out how to properly diagnose it further below!

1. Gas Capacity

Open Fuel Tank Cap

The car’s gas cap seals the fuel system, so the tank receives the right amount of pressure. When you don’t apply the gas cap tightly enough or it is damaged, the pressure could be off in the fuel system. 

This is a simple fix. It costs only a few bucks to replace or fix the gas cap. 

2. Failing Oxygen Sensor

O2 Sensor On Cat

You might notice a decrease in fuel economy when an oxygen sensor fails. Each vehicle has four oxygen sensors. Any one can fail.

It all depends on your vehicle's make and model. The oxygen sensor replacement costs could run around $250. 

RELATED : 5 Symptoms of an O2 Sensor Failure (Related)

3. A failing catalytic converter

Clogged Catalytic Converter

Typically, the catalytic converter fails because you haven’t performed regular maintenance or you ignored other issues. It is important to replace spark plugs and oxygen sensors immediately if they are damaged or worn.

Most cases of catalytic converter repair cost more than $1,000. 

RELATED: 8 Signs That Your Catalytic Converter Is Not Proper

4. No Spark Plugs, or Wires

Spark Plug Misfires

You will experience problems with engine performance if your spark plugs become corroded or worn out. It’s also possible that the engine won’t start at all. That’s because this critical part supplies the spark needed for ignition. 

As crucial as the spark plug wires, they supply the spark that is created by the coil to the plugs so it can ignite air-fuel mixture. Regular tune-ups include replacement of both these components. Check your owner’s manual to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Reported: Six Signs That Bad Spark Plugs Are Making You Sick

5. Failure Mass Air Flow Sensor

Cleaning Maf Sensor

The mass air flow sensor monitors how much air gets into the engine. It then uses the calculations to determine how many fuels are needed. 

When the MAF sensor starts to go bad, you might notice a drop in fuel economy because the engine can’t run efficiently anymore. Most cars cost between $100 to $400 for replacement of the mass air flow sensor. 

Related: 8 Warning Signs That Your MAF Sensor Is Not Working

How do I fix the engine light?

Mechanics Diagnose Car

These are the steps to fix an on-board Check Engine Light. 

1. OBD Readers Available

It isn’t expensive to buy your own OBD code reader. This handy tool allows you to check engine problems without having to pay a mechanic.

If you don’t want to buy an OBD reader, you can check with your local parts store. You can check codes at many locations across the country for no cost.

2. Search for engine codes

Under the driver’s side dashboard, you will see a trapezoid-shaped port. That’s where you want to plug in the code reader. Before you connect it, make sure that the key and engine are turned off.

After the scanner is connected and turned on, it's time to switch the ignition key on your car, but not the engine. Click the scanner button to see the codes. 

3. You can search the Engine Code

Your code can be uploaded to the internet so you can find out what caused it. Mechanic Base informs its customers about the most frequent trouble codes. 

If you can’t find the information you need online, consider calling your local dealership for help.

4. Replace the defective part

After identifying the issue, it is possible to purchase and install the replacement parts. You will pay less for some repairs than for others.

It is important to not delay a repair as it can lead to bigger problems in the future. 

5. Eliminate the Code

Once everything is fixed, it’s time to erase the codes. Reconnect the scanner and press the erase key. 

The changes might have to be confirmed. To be certain they have disappeared, we recommend scanning the engine again. The Check Engine Light will turn on.

Before you attempt to fix an issue that will make it pass a smog test, drive your car for several miles. Many technicians can tell if you have recently deleted a code, so it’s best to drive for at least 50 miles first. 

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