Common Causes of a Check Engine Light

It’s every car owner’s worst nightmare. You’re driving down the road, everything seems to be fine. And, out of the blue, your check engine light comes on.

Your check engine light can be triggered by any number of things- a loose gas cap, a broken fuel injector, a sudden leak, a broken manifold. Even if your car seems like its driving just fine, you should still investigate the problem and see a mechanic as soon as possible. Neglecting a minor issue could lead to bigger, and more expensive, problems down the road; you may be wasting fuel, putting out lots of pollution, or damaging the engine without even realizing it.

A blinking light or, on some cars, a red light (instead of a yellow light) indicates a problem that needs immediate attention. Here are some potential causes, and what you should do about them:

Blown Head Gasket

The head gasket forms a seal between the engine block and the cylinder head. Most of the gasket can’t be seen without disassembling the engine, so a blown head gasket can be very difficult to diagnose. Here are a few visual cues to look for:

  • Coolant leaking from below the exhaust manifold
  • White smoke coming from the exhaust pipe
  • Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
  • Overheating engine
  • White milky oil
  • Fouled spark plugs

Worn-out spark plugs or spark plug wires

Spark plug longevity depends on the condition and type of spark plug you currently have installed. An engine with properly performing spark plugs should sound continuous and smooth. Deteriorated spark plugs can decrease your vehicle’s fuel economy due to incomplete combustion, and produce a rough and jittery sound when your engine is running. Some other symptoms include:

  • Engine Misfires
  • High Fuel Consumption
  • Lack of Acceleration
  • Rough Idle
  • Problem Starting Your Car

Loose or cracked hoses and manifolds

Your car has two manifolds – an intake manifold and an exhaust manifold. Both are essential parts of your vehicle, but the exhaust manifold is far more likely to experience problems. Exhaust manifolds are subject to intense heat, which means they’re also subject to expansion and contraction which, in turn, leads to metal fatigue. If your exhaust manifold is leaking or cracked,

  • Incorrect back pressure in the exhaust system
  • Reduced engine power
  • Engine “sputtering”
  • Failed emissions testing

At V&F

It’s always a good idea to have a professional to diagnose the problem, and some mechanics will even perform this service for free. Some repairs will be more expensive than others, but it’s still important to get them taken care of. In some states, you can’t pass inspection or emissions testing if the light is on — especially if the vehicle is a 1996 or newer.

Our expert mechanics use latest diagnostic equipment, and high quality CARQUEST auto parts, to make sure we get the job done right. Plus, our auto repair services are backed by an industry-leading 3 year / 36,000 mile warranty on parts and labor. Call us today at (413) 314-2280 or schedule an appointment online.

Written by Nicole Palange

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