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Car Tips

Is Check Engine Light a Serious Problem?

January 22, 2023

Check engine lights come in orange, yellow or amber, depending on the manufacturer. If the light begins flashing, however, it indicates a more serious problem, such as a misfire that can quickly overheat the catalytic converter. These emissions devices operate at high temperatures to cut emissions but can pose a fire hazard if faulty.

If the check engine light is illuminated, you can keep driving but you should get the car checked out as soon as you get a chance. A flashing check engine light means that you need to pull over immediately as your vehicle has a serious issue that could cause severe engine damage.

Sometimes your vehicle will throw up a fault code because something as simple as the gas cap being loose could trigger the check engine light. However, not all check engine light codes are that simple and some require immediate attention. Check out these four common check engine light issues!

1. Malfunctioning Oxygen Sensor

If your vehicles’ oxygen sensor is failing, the check engine light will most likely turn on. There are numerous reasons why it might be going bad like internal leaks, using fuel with higher ethanol concentrations or burning oil. When a malfunction occurs, your oxygen sensor can drop your fuel economy by 40 percent! This part is quite small in comparison to other vehicle components but dramatically affects the way your vehicle performs.

2. Bad Spark Plugs and Wires

The spark plugs and wires on your vehicles’ engine should be regularly replaced every few years. These are typically inexpensive but they can wreak havoc on vehicle performance when they fail. You can experience declined throttle response, decreased fuel economy and engine misfiring. If those conditions persist, you could ultimately cause damage to your vehicle’s catalytic converter.

3. Failing Mass Air Flow Sensor

The mass air flow sensor is an integral component to the engine and on-board vehicle computer because it controls and measures the amount of air the engine should receive and regulates how much fuel to inject. When the mass air flow sensor malfunctions, you can expect to see a drop in fuel economy, bad performance and bucking or hesitating while in motion. This part could fit in the palm of your hand and serves a vital role when driving which makes it an expensive part to replace.

4. Faulty Alternator

Every time you turn the key in the ignition to start the engine, you need more than just a good battery to fire it up. The alternator works in conjunction with the battery to deliver power to vital electrical systems throughout the car like the interior lights, heating and AC controls and the instrument panel. It helps regulate the electricity you need to properly operate a vehicle and if your alternator is faulty, you could risk your safety. If your alternator fails while you are driving, you’ll notice that the radio will cut out, the interior lights will dim and it’ll start to become increasingly difficult to drive. Essentially, all power is lost and things like power brakes and power steering will no longer function correctly.