What to do and not to do when your vehicle’s engine light comes on


Your current vehicle might not have the communication capabilities of David Hasselhoff’s classic Knight Rider Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, but if you pay close attention to it, it sometimes tries to tell you something.

Take this check engine light for example. Many drivers often ignore the sudden appearance of an engine light or sensor warning, assuming nothing to worry about as the vehicle appears to be operating normally. However, ignoring the warning signs coming from your vehicle’s operating systems could quickly lead to serious and costly problems.

“It’s always good to have it checked every time your engine light comes on,” said Vince Klimkosz, owner of two Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-it stores in Guelph. “If the engine light comes on, it usually means there is a malfunction with one of your emissions controls. But it could also mean something more serious.

There is a litany of potential issues that could arise whenever your dashboard is illuminated with warning lights. For example, any of these issues can trigger a warning light:

  • Loose fuel cap
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Catalytic converter problems
  • Misfire / spark plug problem
  • Ignition coil problem
  • Mass air flow sensor malfunction
  • Broken thermostat
  • Fuel injector problem
  • Evaporative Emissions Purge Solenoid

The technology built into the design of today’s vehicles means that there are many more systems that could potentially run into problems. However, Klimkosz says the same technology often makes it easier to diagnose the problem quickly and easily.

“People are often able to use their vehicles to figure out for themselves why the engine light is on,” he said. “Many new models have built-in diagnostics that can tell you why the light is on. This could tell you that the left front tire is lacking air or that the gas cap is loose.

Many vehicles allow you to download an application that connects to the car to get an update on the status of your operating systems. If there are real issues, many cars come with built-in safes that allow you to drive up to 60 kilometers so you can walk into a workshop for repair.

Even with these contingencies built in, Klimkosz says it’s never a good idea to ignore the warning lights on your vehicles. Such preliminary warning systems are built into vehicles by manufacturers to help drivers identify minor problems before they become major problems.

Driving with a broken tire pressure sensor, for example, may not affect your vehicle’s actual performance, but it alerts you to any eventuality.

The next time your vehicle tries to tell you something, be sure to listen. Bring it into Vinnie’s for proper service. Book your appointment online by visiting Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-It at http://vinniesmrfixit.com/. Or drop by one of their two locations in Guelph: 30 Hayes Avenue or 41 Woodlawn Road West.

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