Drivers get nervous when the “check engine” light starts blinking, since it can mean anything from a low gas tank to repairs costing thousands of dollars. Even someone with an auto parts discount can’t escape the harsh reality of certain car repair expenses.
Try using the light as a means to stay ahead of car problems, however, and you might just extend the life of your vehicle. Often, the light is a warning sign about problems that can be avoided by keeping up with regular maintenance. While issues with brake pads, radiators, brake rotors and ball joints are all fairly common repairs, here are the five most common reasons your “check engine” light might come on. We’ve also included what you can expect to pay for the repair, including labor, according to the website CarMD:
1. Faulty Oxygen Sensor
The sensor measures the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust and tells the car’s computer how much fuel is in the tank. If a faulty one is not repaired, the car’s gas mileage could drop, since the sensor is sending incorrect information to the car. It costs less than $200 to repair.
2. Loose or missing gas cap
Technicians will often tighten the gas cap for free, or replace it for a few dollars. If it’s not replaced, gas will evaporate from the car and decrease its gas mileage.
3. Broken catalytic converter
This one isn’t good news, since it can cost up to $2,000 to replace – might be a good time to see about an auto parts discount outlet. The catalytic converter uses a catalyst — most often a precious metal such as platinum — to convert harmful gases left over from combustion to less harmful emissions. CarMD says catalytic converters generally won’t fail unless a related part, such as a spark plug, malfunctions, so it’s wise to keep up with the car’s maintenance schedule.
4. Malfunctioning mass air flow sensor
This sensor measures the amount of air supplied to the engine, which determines how much fuel should be delivered. When it malfunctions, it can result in a loss of power to the car, surges during acceleration and a decrease in fuel economy. It costs around $375 to fix.
5. Misfiring spark plugs
Spark plugs are small but essential, since they make the car go by igniting the compressed fuel in an internal combustion engine. Misfiring spark plugs can affect engine power and fuel economy and can also damage the catalytic converter. You can replace spark plugs yourself for around $10 or pay $300 for a technician to do it.
CarMD says the total average repair cost in the U.S. is $305.56, including $202.28 for parts and $103.27 for labor. The site also alleges that the most expensive cars to repair are, in fact, Hybrids. They remain rare enough that their parts are pricier and fewer technicians are trained to fix them.
Having an auto parts discount or a friend who’s a mechanic can help bail you out from time to time, but the secret to avoiding expensive car repairs is to take better care of the car and listen when it’s trying to tell you something is wrong.
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