Check engine light repairs for ordinary people

We’ve all been there before, the “service engine soon” light comes on or starts blinking and you’re overcome with anxiety; not knowing what’s causing that light or how much it will cost to repair. What’s worse, you don’t know if you should keep using the vehicle or if you can wait to address later.

Handy Instead of calling the repair shop first, check to see if you can fix it yourself and save time and money. Here is a list of some of the most common engine light repairs.

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1. Replace Oxygen Sensor

On Amazon for only $45.52

Your car’s O2 sensor measures the air-to- fuel ratio of your engine. When sensors begin to fail they report back to your vehicle’s computer that it needs more fuel or less fuel than it actually getting.

What causes it:  While O2 sensors will fail eventually, premature failure can be due to neglected maintenance, such as missed oil changes.

If not repaired:  In the short term, this decreases fuel economy, but if neglected can lead to expensive damage to the catalytic convertor.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0135, P0141

$271 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

2. Replace Catalytic Converter

On Amazon for only $579.44

Your vehicle’s catalytic converter turns pollutants and toxic gases created from the internal combustion process into less environmentally unfriendly substances.

What causes it:  Catalytic converters typically fail with excess vehicle age, but can fail prematurely if a driver ignores a small problem such as a spark plug or O2 sensor failure. This can in turn cause the vehicle to misfire. A misfire is when one or more of the cylinders are not contributing to your vehicle’s power, and raw fuel may be running out of the engine into the catalytic converter. Your vehicle typically warns of a misfire with a blinking check engine light, which indicates a problem.

If not repaired:  A malfunctioning catalytic converter will not allow your vehicle to pass an emissions test and you’ll experience diminished fuel economy and performance in the short term. If left untreated long term, it can cause permanent harm to internal engine components, the vehicle’s fuel system.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0420, P0430

$271 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

$1147.38 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

3. Ignition Coil(s)

Average price On Amazon or eBay for only $160.95

Ignition coils provide the spark that ignites the fuel and air mixture to your car’s engine. They take the battery’s 12-volt current and step it up to ignite the spark plugs. Your car may have only one ignition coil, or one per cylinder.

What causes it:  Several conditions can contribute to its failure, including faulty spark plugs, high temperatures and age.

If not repaired:  Ignoring a faulty ignition coil can cause starting problems, a decrease in fuel economy, engine misfires and backfires. The last two can lead to bigger and more expensive repairs if the ignition coils aren’t replaced soon, such as damage to the catalytic converters.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0304, P0303

$250 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

4. Tighten or Replace Gas Cap

On Amazon for only $21.34

Believe it or not, missing or damaged gas caps are among the most common reasons for the check engine light. They can cost drivers in time, money and trips to the work shop.

What causes it:  it: Forgetting to tighten your car’s gas cap after a fill-up or leaving it dangling alongside your car as you drive away from the gas station is the most common reason for gas cap-related check engine lights. Driving in high altitudes during summer months can also cause heat to build up in the gas tank because there is less air pressure and more fuel flow. A gas cap can also fail if the rubber around it gets a tiny hole or rip. And of, course, it can become stolen or left behind at the pump altogether.

If not repaired:  Missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of fuel to evaporate into the air annually. Simply tightening the cap for free or replacing it for a couple dollars usually fixes the problem, but if left unchecked can result in lower gas mileage and harm the environment.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0456, P0455, P0442, P0440

$53 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

5. Replace Thermostat

On Amazon for only $23.06

Your car’s thermostat regulates the operating temperature of the engine; it opens and closes as needed to regulate temperature. When a thermostat fails, it often gets stuck open. If the vehicle’s computer doesn’t see the engine coolant temperature rise to “operating temperature” within a fixed amount of time, it will trigger the check engine light.

What causes it:  A vehicle’s thermostat can be susceptible to age, sludge and extreme temperatures. It can also rust, get stuck or fail if the coolant is not changed at recommended mileage intervals.

If not repaired:  When your car’s thermostat fails it could it either cause your vehicle’s engine to run too cold, affecting performance and eventually damaging other components, such as catalytic converters. An engine running too hot can destroy internal components.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0128, P0125

$180 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

6. Replace Mass Air Flow Sensor

On Amazon for only $50.00

The mass air flow sensor (MAF) meters the air coming into your car’s engine and determines how much fuel to inject into the engine.

What causes it:  Mass air flow sensors are susceptible to dry, dusty road conditions. An easy and affordable way to keep your MAF sensor healthy is by keeping your car’s air filter clean. Air filters usually cost less than $20 to replace, while mass airflow sensors average roughly $400 in parts and labor.

If not repaired:  A malfunctioning Mass airflow sensor can lead to poor performance, reduced fuel efficiency and damage to the catalytic converter.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0171, P0174

$350 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

7. Replace Spark Plug Wires and Spark Plugs

On Amazon for only $45

Small but mighty, spark plugs deliver little “bolts of lightning” that ignite the air/fuel mixture that drives your vehicle’s engine.

What causes it:  Common causes for spark plug failure include mechanical damage, overheating and improper installation. Cold weather can also affect spark plugs, causing droplets to form and foul the plug.

If not repaired:  If your vehicle’s spark plugs or wires are not functioning properly, the air/fuel mix will not fully ignite in the combustion chamber, leading to poor performance, lower miles-per- gallon (MPG), and if not addressed can lead to more problems, such as damaged O2 sensors, ignition coils, and even catalytic converters.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0300, P0303, P0302

$280 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

8. Replace Evaporative Emissions Purge Control Valve or Solenoid

On Amazon for only $55

Your vehicle’s evaporative emission system (EVAP) reduces the amount of pollution that is emitted to the environment by limiting the amount of fuel vapors that get released. This system consists of valves, solenoids, vacuum hoses and other components. When the engine is running and fully warmed up, the engine computer gradually opens the exhaust valve to allow some fuel vapor to be moved from the engine. When the amount of vapor is more or less than expected, the “check engine light” is activated.

What causes it:  The exhaust valves can often get stuck partially open or closed due to pieces of carbon, which is a fairly simple and inexpensive fix.

If not repaired:  If an EVAP exhaust control valve gets stuck open, it can cause a small vacuum leak, which will cause rough idling and poor acceleration. If it gets stuck closed, it can cause premature failure of the catalytic converter.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0440, P0446

$260 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

9. Replace Fuel Injector

On Amazon for only $150.00

A fuel injector is an electronically-actuated electromagnetic valve typically mounted on the engine’s intake manifold. Fuel Injectors provide atomized fuel into the intake manifold and into the combustion chamber (engine cylinder).

What causes it:  Fuel injectors can become dirty or clogged because of many things such as extreme temperatures and poor fuel quality (Low Octane Fuel), or neglected maintenance.

If not repaired:  Fuel injector problems may result in excessive fuel consumption and poor engine performance, if neglected, can cause physical damage to critical engine components. You might notice that your car has idling problems, lack of power or that you’re filling up your gas more often.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0300, P0171

$300 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

10. Replace EGR Valve

On Amazon for only $57.78

EGR valves helps your vehicle run more efficiently and control emissions. The EGR valve re-circulates a portion of the exhaust back through the combustion process thereby lowering the combustion temperature and the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions.

What causes it:  Over time, a vehicle’s EGR valve can become clogged or stuck open/closed from the carbon deposits that come from the soot, water and oil found in exhaust gas.

If not repaired:  A faulty EGR valve or blocked EGR valve can cause rough idling, engine hesitation, misfires and poor fuel economy.

Associated Trouble Codes*: P0420, P0303

$500 Average professional repair cost

Repair difficulty

If your vehicle’s primary diagnostic code matches a repair’s “Associated trouble code”, SekurIT is very certain the repair is the correct one for your vehicle.

To get your vehicle’s diagnostic code, you can visit parts stores (such as AAmco NAPA – Part Sours in Canada) and they’ll get it for free or you can purchase a basic obd2 scanner.

Or if you’re looking for more information (such as labor times and costs) or have an issue not covered by this article, check out our product here. SekurIT has a solution for 95% of the engine lights on the road today.

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