When a car’s Check Engine Light comes on, it does not necessarily mean that it's cause for panic. However, it does mean that the vehicle needs some attention to make sure that it continues to run properly.

What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

It’s often difficult to discern exactly why the light came on in the first place without having a diagnostic test performed on your vehicle, which can be frustrating for many owners. A diagnostic test is usually very fast, and it can give you a better idea of what the extent of the problem is so you can take care of it.

The Most Common Reasons the Check Engine Light Comes On

A number of different problems can cause the Check Engine Light to turn on. The following are five of the most common reasons.

The oxygen sensor could be burned out or faulty, which could then give false readings to the car’s computer and reduce your fuel efficiency. A loose gas cap could also cause the Check Engine Light to come on, so checking for a loose or faulty cap should be one of the first things you do. In addition, it could be a problem with the catalytic converter, the mass airflow sensor, or the spark plugs and wires.

What Should You Do When the Light Comes On?

Unless the vehicle isn’t starting, is stalling, or smoking, your first step should be to get a diagnostic test so you can determine what steps to take for repair. Because so many different things in the vehicle could cause the light to come on, getting the advice of a professional mechanic is often your best option.

Never Ignore the Light

One of the things that you do not want to do when the light comes on is panic or worry. Get the diagnosis and then take care of the problem. It’s not usually an emergency, so you should have time to take care of it. However, you should never simply ignore the light.

You want your vehicle to last as long as possible, and that means you need to take good care of it. Whenever the Check Engine Light comes on, have a certified mobile mechanic from YourMechanic mechanic inspect the vehicle.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as 4 Essential Things to Know About Your Car’s Check Engine Light and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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