Why Did My Check Engine Light Come On?

Check Engine

Some people panic when their check engine light comes on; other people shrug their shoulders and ignore it. Don't do either. Find the middle ground and heighten your senses to assess unusual car behavior. Do you hear strange sounds, see visible issues such a smoke, or smell anything odd? If not, drive your vehicle to Dhillon Motorsports, formerly known as Smog Man San Jose. If so, pull over to safety and call for a tow.

Check Engine Light Overview

Your vehicle has an onboard computer that monitors operating systems all the time. If something minor goes awry, the onboard computer will correct it. If something goes wrong that the computer cannot correct, it will warn you using the dashboard lights, i.e. the brake light signals an issue with your brake system. The CEL is catch-all for issues not covered by their own light.

What Could Be Wrong When the Check Engine Light Comes On?

Because the CEL is that catch-all, the underlying issue could be minor, such as your gas cap is loose, to major, such as your catalytic converter is dying. This is why mechanics run a diagnostic check to determine why the CEL came on. The diagnostic machine communicates with your vehicle's onboard computer and the computer tells it why it turned on the check engine light.

Common reasons why a check engine light comes on include a

  • Loose gas cap
  • Bad catalytic converter
  • Failing oxygen or mass airflow sensor
  • Worn spark plugs
  • Worn spark plug wires

All of these reasons can prevent your vehicle from passing a smog inspection; some of them can render your vehicle inoperable. The sooner you isolate the problem and have it repaired the less additional damage to your automobile, so while you don't necessarily need to panic when your check engine light comes on if there isn't any visible issue, you shouldn't ignore it either.

Quick and Painless

Isolating the cause of the CEL is quick and painless, especially if it's just your gas cap so check that first. If that doesn't appear to be the problem, a vehicle diagnostic check only takes a few minutes. It's not the test that takes time but it might be the repairs if it is something major. Don't take chances; have the diagnostic test performed.

Dhillon Motorsports, formerly known as Smog Man San Jose runs engine diagnostics and fixes check engine light problems all the time, so bring your vehicle into our San Jose, CA, shop. Call us.