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6 Reasons Your Check Engine Light Might Be On

Photo by Joshua Aragon on Unsplash

It’s the light that nobody wants to see–the dreaded check engine light. Dashboard lights are triggered by sensors in your vehicle's computer module when something is amiss. 


If you have experience with this light from the past, you know it can be an expensive repair–but it isn’t always! In fact, there are quite a few reasons your check engine light may have been triggered. Below, I’ll list the most common six reasons your check engine light may have come on. 

1. Loose or Missing Gas Cap

During a trip or a stressful morning, it’s easy to forget to screw on your gas cap immediately after pumping your gas. Doing this can actually trigger your check engine light! This is the simplest fix of all six we have listed–if your gas cap is loose or missing, it’s just a matter of tightening or replacing it. 


How do you fix this? Easy. Tighten your gas cap! Check to ensure it's securely tightened by pressing on it with your thumb while holding it down on the tab with your forefinger. If there's still some play, tighten it until it feels snug.  

3. Air Filter Clog

If your car's air filter is clogged, it can cause engine problems. The air filter should be changed every 12,000 miles or so. If you're unsure how to do this (you can find tutorials online), having a professional do the job for you is best. If you don't change your air filter regularly, particles will build up inside, creating a buildup of dirt and dust that eventually can damage essential engine components.


How do you fix this? You can replace your air filter yourself or go see your local mechanic to get it replaced. 

4. Faulty Spark Plugs

Spark plugs and wires are common causes of check engine lights. Spark plugs can wear out over time, so it's important to have them replaced if you suspect yours are the culprit. Wires are likely to break, so be on the lookout for that. 


If you find that one of these is your problem, it's best to get a professional mechanic to check them out (and if you're in Kansas City, our mechanics here at Brookside “66” Service can help you!). They'll ensure that everything is in good working order before letting you go—and they'll know how to avoid a repeat occurrence down the road!

5. Issue With Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor monitors exhaust gasses and helps determine how much fuel should be used at any given time to create an optimal amount of power. Oxygen sensors can be damaged by heat, oil, and other chemicals that may find their way into your engine over time. They can also be corroded or rusted out due to exposure to water or salt in the air around us.


It’s hard to tell when this is an issue unless you have more diagnostic equipment and are able to check your sensors pretty successfully–for this reason, I’d suggest going to see a mechanic. 

6. Broken (Or Stolen) Catalytic Converter

Why is this last on the list? Because it’s among the most disappointing reasons, your dashboard light may be one!

The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system. It converts harmful gasses into less harmful gasses by using platinum or palladium, which are precious metals that act as catalysts. 

Catalytic converters can be damaged by excessive heat from improper fueling, overheating from extreme acceleration or braking (which causes increased load on the engine), and even regular wear and tear on the vehicle itself.

Catalytic converter thefts are up across the US. Thieves will break into your vehicle's hood and steal this essential part, which can trigger a Check Engine warning on your dashboard. Why do they do this? Your converter's material can bring in quite a bit of money at junk yards. 

How do you fix this? Go see your local mechanic and look through your manual to see what kind of replacement part you’ll need if your converter is shot. If it has been stolen, there are also catalytic converter lock kits that can keep it from happening again. 

Come See Us At Brookside “66” Service For A DVI! 

Happy New Year, Kansas City! If your New Year goals are to save money, take care of your car, or learn more about your vehicle, stick around and check out our blog once a month. For your check engine light, come and visit us now at 6244 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64113, or book your appointment here. Our skilled auto mechanics will prepare your vehicle for the new school year with quality repairs and friendly service! Remember, it’s always best to take care of your vehicle before the big day arrives so that you can focus on driving safely and comfortably with your kids. 


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