If you own a vehicle, you have probably had the experience of driving along on a normal day and suddenly your check engine light comes on out of nowhere. Nothing seems wrong or any different than before it flashed on, but still, there it is, staring you in the face. Luckily, a quick diagnostic test done by either your mechanic or at an auto retail store should be able to tell you exactly what is causing the problem. Because most cars are run on computers now, the list of things that could be causing your check engine light to come on runs pretty long, but here are the most common reasons.
The oxygen sensor, or 02 sensor, measures the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust system. This helps your vehicle to regulate the mixture of air and fuel as you are driving. While your vehicle can run fine with a bad sensor for a while, it can affect the gas mileage you get and can lead to damage to other components of the engine like the spark plugs.
Loose Gas Cap
This is one of the most common culprits of your check engine light, and it is also one of the simplest to solve. If you notice the light coming on soon after a stop at the gas station, you might want to check and make sure your gas cap is both on and on all of the way. Your gas cap does a lot for your fuel engine including keeping fumes from leaking out while you are on and off the road and maintaining the right fuel pressure in your tank. If your gas cap is damaged, replacing it is a quick, affordable fix to this problem!
Mass Airflow Sensor
The mass airflow sensor (MAF) regulates the amount of air that your car is taking in which causes an adjustment of fuel needed to run properly. There are other symptoms of a mass airflow sensor gone bad including trouble starting, trouble shifting, rough idling, stalling, and reduced gas mileage. Not only will your car not run as well, but driving with a bad MAF for long can also affect other components of your vehicle as well including the 02 sensors, converter, spark plugs, and more.
Spark Plug Wire
Your spark plug plays a huge role in your vehicle starting and accelerating as you drive, and the wires are just as important since they carry the spark that is ignited. If your wire(s) start to go bad, you might notice a few problems with the engine not running as smoothly, reduced gas mileage, and in some cases, your vehicle might have trouble starting. Luckily, the spark plug wires are a pretty easy and affordable fix for your mechanic!
While none of these common issues mean immediate danger, remember that your vehicle is made up of many components that depend on one another. When one part isn’t working properly, the other parts often have to over compensate which can cause more damage over time to various parts of your engine. If your check engine light is on, take a few minutes to pop into your mechanic or auto retailer to get your diagnostic so you can make a plan to get your car running just as smoothly and efficiently as it was made to!