What Does Check Engine Light Mean - What To Do When It's On
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30 Oct 2018

Check Engine Light Popping Up? Here Is What It Means

Team CARS24
editor
Car Maintenance Tips
Est. Reading Time:
3 mins

Check Engine Light Popping Up? Here Is What It Means

Team CARS24
editor

Deciphering What Check Engine Light Means

There are a plethora of malfunctions that the Check Engine light could mean – From something as trivial as a loose gas cap to something major like faulty spark plugs. It usually means a visit to the workshop after which you generally end up with a lighter wallet.

What is the check engine light?

Better known as the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Light), the check engine light is a signal from the cars “Engine computer” that something is wrong. And yes, your car has a computer called the ECU doing all the math to run more efficiently. Every time you put your car into the ignition, the ECU runs a number of the tests across the powertrain (everything essential for a car to keep delivering power to the wheels) to ensure everything is functional. Let’s figure out what it means.

If it Blinks, it’s Serious. Period.

Check Engine Light

If the check engine light blinks while you’re driving, you should immediately bring your car to a halt at a safe location. Continuing to drive is such a state could unleash heavy damage to some expensive parts of the car. At times like these, you should definitely consider, getting your car towed or getting it checked by a professional mechanic.

But if it’s a Steady Light?

Speedometer with engine light on

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:

  • A catalytic converter malfunction – It basically 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.

It’s unlikely for it to malfunction if the car is maintained well. But if the catalytic converter ends up malfunctioning and requires replacement, it could cost you upwards of Rs.6000.

  • Mass Airflow sensor fault – It helps the ECU decide the air to fuel ratio for efficient burning of fuel. It usually means that you haven’t changed the air filter in a while which chokes the air flow to the engine. It would result in the car stalling, poor idling and bad mileage.

But if the sensor actually stops working, again it’s a pretty costly affair to replace. These complex electronics are hard to fix.

  • A loose or open petrol cap – As trivial as it sounds 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’s because of the 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 ECU. Leave this one to the pros.

Faulty readings could mean in poor performance and if left this way could eventually damage the catalytic converter which can cost a fortune to replace.

  • Damaged 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 which doesn’t require a change every so often.

If it’s indeed the bad spark plugs, your local mechanic can replace these in a jiffy and they don’t cost much either.

There will be times when even your mechanic finds it hard to figure out what’s wrong and it could be just some loose sensor wires. But if your “check engine” light is coming on too often, your car is getting old and you’re asking too much from it. It’s about time you sell your old car and let it rest in peace.

At CARS24, you can sell your old car with peace of mind – Minimal paperwork, hassle free process and instant payment. So don’t wait for your old car to stall in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you visit a professional mechanic/workshop if the light blinks. Don’t let it burn a hole in your wallet later!