Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Deciphering Your Check Engine Light

When the "Check Engine" light comes on in your car, it's usually followed by a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. The light could mean a costly problem, like a bad catalytic converter, or it could be something minor, like a loose gas cap. But the truth of the matter is it means you need to visit a mechanic to determine the cause of the light and prevent future damage.

The Check Engine light — is a signal from the car's engine computer that something isn't right. If there is any change in the car's performance, any mechanical noises, smoke from the tailpipe or electrical smells, stop the car and call for immediate assistance. If there are none of these symptoms, restart the car and if the light maintains on then you'll need to visit a mechanic to diagnose the problem.

Car's made after 1996, have a standardized system under a protocol called OBD-II, which stipulated a standardized list of diagnostic trouble codes (DTC) and mandated that all cars provide a universal connector to access this information. It's usually located under the steering column and is easy to access, if you take your car to any mechanic they will have a code reader that connects to this standardized on board diagnostics (OBD) port and transmits a code to diagnose the problem. For more information about engine light coding there are helpful websites such as Engine Light Help.

CarMD published a list of the five most common Check Engine light codes:
  • O2 sensor (part of the emissions system, monitoring and helping adjust the air-fuel mixture)
  • Loose gas cap
  • Catalytic converter
  • Mass air flow sensor (monitoring the amount of air mixed in the fuel injection system)
  • Spark plug wires
In summary, just because the check engine light comes on does not mean that you have a costly repair ahead of you, what it does indicate is that there is something that isn't right. The light indicates the need for you to take your car in to a mechanic or service department as soon as possible to find out exactly what is wrong and to prevent further damage. Orr Nissan of Greenville service department's trained mechanics will solve the problem and get you back on the road as soon as possible.

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