A Check Engine Light Warning Is Usually False, Right?

Unfortunately, a check engine warning generally isn’t false. The engine control unit (ECU) turns the light on because it received an error code from a system sensor. Oxford Automotive advises all drivers to take their check engine warning light seriously because there could be something serious going on underneath the hood. Let’s talk more about the check engine and false versus true alarms.

Check Engine Light Purpose

Your automobile’s dashboard is loaded with lights and gauges to keep you abreast of everything that is going on while you drive it. The check engine light covers problems that don’t otherwise have a dashboard warning system. For example, if your car overheats, the temperature gauge will rise. If your catalytic converter is failing, the check engine light will come on.

How the Check Engine Light Works

As we said above, the ECU controls the dashboard warning lights. You’ll see all of them turn on when you first start your car. This is because the system sensors are checking their respective systems and reporting back to the ECU. Each light turns off once the ECU receives the “all systems go” message. If an error code is reported, the ECU will turn on the respective light. The check engine warning is a catch-all.

Reasons Why the Check Engine Light Comes On

There are many common reasons why your ECU will turn on the check engine warning, and aside from a loose gas cap, all of them are serious. We mentioned the catalytic converter above, and this part will trigger a check engine warning if it’s malfunctioning because it treats carbon monoxide, a deadly byproduct of any fuel-burning engine. Other reasons why the check engine light comes on include

  • Exhaust system problems such as leaks and clogs
  • Electrical system problems that affect the ECU and sensors
  • Mass airflow sensor malfunction or failure
  • Oxygen sensor malfunction or failure
  • Spark plug misfiring or plug wire troubles
  • Transmission or fuel system problems

As you can see, the check engine light covers an array of trouble that could occur with your automobile, and ignoring the light or assuming it’s a false illumination could put you at risk, particularly if there is something wrong with the exhaust system or catalytic converter. You don’t want exhaust or carbon monoxide flowing into your cabin.

The best thing to do if your check engine warning comes on is to head straight to our auto service shop in Oxford, PA, because, honestly, there really aren’t any false warnings. We’ll run a diagnostic test to find out why the light came on and get the problem fixed right away. We are Oxford Automotive, and you can count on us to take the best care of your automobile.

Photo by matsou from Getty Images Signature via Canva Pro

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