Why your check engine light might be on

Driving can sometimes be a soothing experience, but as soon as the check engine light comes on, the stress meter starts to increase. The dreaded feeling of uncertainty, not knowing if there is something horribly wrong with your car. If you find yourself in this particular unpleasant situation, we have some good news for you. The check engine light doesn’t always signify that is something drastically wrong with your car. The bad news is that there could be something very wrong with your car. Fear not, though; we’ll break this down.

Why Is My Check Engine Light On?

Your check engine light can turn on for various reasons. One example, something as small as a loose gas cap you forgot to tighten can trigger the warning light. A major issue that could turn on the light would be failed internal engine components. To rid yourself of uncertainty, it’s best to have an expert at an auto repair shop diagnose the issue.

The Check Engine Light: More Complicated Than You Think

The reasons your check engine light is on right now are countless. Your car’s computer will switch this warning on whenever it detects a problem with the powertrain, which are engine, transmission, and related components that could increase tailpipe emissions.

For example, something such as the loose gas cap we had mentioned before would allow fuel vapors to escape into the atmosphere and trigger the check engine light. Same as an internal engine issue that causes a misfire and releases increased hydrocarbon emission, could also turn on the warning light. What makes this even more complicated is because each car is different. What triggers the light can vary by model, make, and year.

To put it bluntly, there really isn’t a way to say exactly why your check engine light is on without performing some diagnostic work.

When the check engine light comes on, your car’s control module or computer stores a corresponding diagnostic trouble code, or DTC, in its memory. A professional mechanic at an auto repair facility can use a code reader or scan tool to retrieve that code and use it as a starting point to perform further troubleshooting.

What we can tell you is that a check engine light comes on for problems related to the powertrain. If your antilock braking system had issues, it would trigger the ABS light instead of the check engine light.

Nowadays, because various parts of a car are closely interrelated, in rare cases, a problem within one subsystem, like the ABS example we gave, can trigger warnings in another subsystem such as the powertrain. For the most part, the check engine light means there is a problem within the powertrain or its related components.

What to Do if Your Check Engine Light is on

You won’t know what the check engine light truly means until you have your car checked by a professional at an auto repair shop. The warning could indicate something harmless and simple or something serious that could further damage your car.

With that in mind, you don’t want to take any chances. If your check engine light is on, have a professional at an auto repair shop diagnose and repair the issue right away.

If your check engine light is on, and you’re not sure why? Stop by your local auto repair shop, Hinckley Auto. Locally owned and operated and proudly serving the Salt Lake County area with reputable service you can count on.