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Everyone Hates The 'Check Engine' Warning Light...

By raccars Published

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It's only small, but the 'check engine' warning light can provoke a disproportionate amount of hatred in car owners. It's the vagueness that really seems to irritate people - when that light comes on, it could mean not much at all, or it could be catastrophic. An alarming number of people opt for a policy of ignoring it and hoping it goes away...

However, that's a really bad idea. You may not notice any fault with the handling or ride of your car, but the 'check engine' light is there for a reason, and there is probably something wrong. If you carry on driving with the light illuminated, it will eventually demand your attention by flashing. Ignore this at your peril!

Sensible car owners won't let things get to that stage, as there are a number of checks you can perform to help diagnose the problem. There should be some clues that indicate a problem - listen very hard and you may hear a knocking from the engine or a squealing belt. Any inappropriate noises should be investigated.

Believe it or not, while you're panicking about potentially astronomical garage bills, the problem could be as simple as a loose petrol cap. Yes, the 'check engine' light could be caused by failing to screw your fuel cap back on properly. Make this your first stop before getting stuck in under the bonnet, and turn until the cap clicks a few times.

If that doesn't cure it, take a look at the spark plugs. A small but vital part of the ignition process, these consumables wear out and need replacing periodically. This is an easy DIY fix or can be done during servicing.

The 'check engine' light can also be provoked by damp. Engines don't like to get wet, whether it's from heavy rain or enthusiastic car washing. While engine bays are constructed to avoid water getting in, occasionally leaks happen. Wet wires can stop the starter mechanism from functioning and will need to dry out before you can try starting up again.

While people often complain that modern engines are too sophisticated for home servicing and maintenance, the same modern electronics can help you to diagnose faults yourself. There are smartphone apps you can download, which allow you to plug your phone into your car and run diagnostic tests.

If, having tried all of the above, you are unable to identify the problem, you will have to brave a visit to a mechanic.

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