A check engine light or malfunction indicator lamp (MIL), is a tell-tale that a computerized engine-management system uses to indicate a malfunction.
The light generally has two stages: Steady (indicating a minor fault) and flashing (indicating a severe fault).
When the MIL is lit, the engine control unit (ECU) stores a fault code related to the malfunction, which is retrieved-although in many models this requires the use of a scan tool.
If the check engine light blinks while you are driving, you should immediately bring your car to a halt at a safe location. Continue driving can damage some expensive parts of the car.
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But if it’s a steady light?
It isn’t something major or an emergency. You can continue driving but should visit a local workshop, as soon as you can, for a quick check-up.
The most common reasons the check engine light comes on:
- The catalytic converter malfunction- It converts harmful hydrocarbons and other toxic gases into less toxic gases. A malfunction could mean bad mileage and could end up with the loss of power to the wheels.
- Mass airflow sensor fault – It helps the ECU decide the air to fuel ratio for efficient burning of fuel. It means you don’t have to change the air filter in a while which chokes the airflow to the engine. It would result in the car stalling, poor idling, and bad mileage.
- A loose or open petrol cap – This actually affects a car’s performance, maintaining the required pressure throughout the line and system. It can reduce the mileage and increase emissions too.
If the light goes on quickly check if it is because of petrol cap. Tighten if it’s loose or if you see the damage, replace the cap. You should see the light turn off soon enough.
- Oxygen sensor fault – This sensor monitors unburned oxygen in the exhaust which co-relates to the air to fuel ratio and efficient burning of fuel.
Each exhaust pipe has a sensor and which one is malfunctioning can only be determined with a diagnosis of the EUC.
- Damage or old spark plugs – the spark of life, it ignites the air and fuel mixture in the combustion chamber of the engine. An essential yet small component that doesn’t require a change every so often.
If it is indeed to bad spark plugs, your local mechanic can replace these in a jiffy and they don’t cost much either.
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