The check engine indicator is one of the important warning lights on the car dashboard that often surprises and worries car owners. When the check engine indicator comes on, most people will usually immediately stop the car and check the condition of the car engine.
However, this check engine indicator is not always a sign that there is a problem with your car’s engine. It could be that the condition of the car’s dirty sensors is what triggers the check engine light to come on.
However, what is actually meant by the check engine indicator? What causes the check engine to light up? And what should you do when this light comes on? This TransTRACK article will discuss all these questions and provide useful solutions for you.
What is a Check Engine Indicator?
The check engine indicator, also known as MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp), is a small symbol found on your vehicle’s dashboard panel. This check engine indicator usually has the form of an engine or the words “Check Engine”. When the check engine light comes on, it is the car’s way of telling you that there is a problem with the emissions control system or another engine component.
Understanding the potential causes of this check engine light can help technicians detect and repair problems more quickly and efficiently. Improper handling can cause the engine to become more problematic and can interfere with your comfort while driving.
Causes of the Engine Indicator Light Coming On
The Check Engine indicator light on a car can come on for a variety of reasons, ranging from fairly simple problems to more complex problems. The following are some common causes of the Check Engine indicator light coming on along with detailed explanations:
Damaged or Malfunctioning Oxygen Sensor
Oxygen (O2) sensors measure the amount of oxygen in vehicle exhaust gas. This sensor is important for controlling emissions and fuel efficiency. If this sensor is damaged or not working properly, it can cause the check engine indicator to come on.
Gas Cap Not Tight
An improperly closed or damaged gas cap can cause extra air to enter the gas tank. This can interfere with the combustion system and cause the check engine light to come on.
A catalyst is a component in the emissions system whose job is to reduce emissions of toxic exhaust gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons. If the catalyst is damaged or blocked, it can cause increased emissions and activate the check engine light.
Combustion System Error
These can include problems such as worn spark plugs, damaged spark plug wires, or blockages in the combustion system. This problem can interfere with efficient combustion and activate the check engine light.
Inefficient Fuel System
Problems in the fuel system such as a leaking fuel pressure regulator or damaged fuel injectors can cause inefficient fuel burning. Problems with the fuel system can trigger the check engine light.
Damage to Cables or Electrical Connections
Damaged cable connections or a short circuit in the engine control system can cause the sensor to not function properly, which can trigger the check engine indicator to come on.
Problems with the Engine Control System (ECU/PCM)
ECU (Electronic Control Unit) or PCM (Powertrain Control Module) is the brain of the vehicle that controls various systems. Errors or damage to the ECU/PCM can activate the check engine light.
How to deal with the check engine indicator light coming on
When your check engine light comes on, it’s important to take certain steps to assess the situation and fix the problem quickly. The following are actions you can take when the check engine light comes on:
First of all, stay calm. The check engine light is a warning sign, but it doesn’t always mean there’s a serious problem. Panicking will only make the situation more complicated.
Check Engine Sound and Behavior
While driving, pay attention to any changes in engine sound or behavior. If you feel there are obvious performance problems such as vibration or reduced power, be careful and reduce your driving speed.
Stop the Car in a Safe Place
If you feel your vehicle is experiencing serious problems or driving is uncomfortable, immediately stop the vehicle in a safe place such as the shoulder of the road or parking area.
Turn the Machine Off and Restart
Once the vehicle has stopped, turn off the engine and restart it after a few moments. Sometimes, the Check Engine light can come on due to a temporary problem that can be resolved by restarting the engine.
Check Gas Cap
Make sure your gas cap is closed properly. A gas cap that is not tight can cause the emissions system to leak and cause the check engine light to come on.
Check Engine Oil Level
Open the engine cover and check the engine oil level. A very low oil level can trigger the check engine light to come on. If the oil level is too low, add oil according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Schedule an inspection at a trusted repair shop
Once you have observed the situation and taken initial steps, schedule an inspection at a trusted repair shop as soon as possible. They will use special diagnostic tools to read error codes and identify the exact cause of the check engine light coming on.
Remember that ignoring the check engine light or delaying maintenance can cause more serious damage to your vehicle. In some cases, problems that start out simple can develop into problems that are more complex and expensive to fix. Therefore, it is important to take appropriate action when this light comes on and consult an experienced professional.
When carrying out car maintenance, you can use the Vehicle Maintenance System from TransTRACK to make the process easier. TransTRACK’s Vehicle Maintenance System has a number of features that can monitor vehicle conditions in real time. You can easily record maintenance history, reminders for oil changes, brake system checks, and so on. This real time monitoring can prevent damage to your car, so that the indicator lights remain in an inactive condition.