How You Can Diagnose Check Engine Light Free (Do It Yourself)

Driving too far when your check engine light is on is not an ideal thing since you don’t know what the problem is. The unfortunate thing is that the light will not reveal anything in particular. Hence, you need to diagnose check engine light for free so that you will be able to know what is wrong with your engine.

Check engine light flashing or blinking is an indication that the computer of your vehicle discovers some problems with your engine or the emissions system. Up till the time that you diagnose the problem with the aid of a scan tool, you may not be able to know the type of problem that your car engine is having.

This article will reveal what you should do when your check engine light is on, where to get the light diagnosed and possible reasons for the blinking. Diagnosing check engine light for free should be a stroll in the park for you once you are able to properly digest this piece.

Check Engine Light Diagnosed

Check Engine Light Diagnosed

What to Do When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

When your check engine light (CEL) starts blinking or flashing, it is very important to get it diagnosed as soon as possible. Since you wouldn’t want to drive far when your oil light is blinking because the engine can stop working. In the same vein, blinking check engine light should be fixed because it can be an indication that something devastating may be happening to your engine.

Where to Get Your Check Engine Light Diagnosed

There are some options available to you in order to diagnose your CEL. You can decide to take your car to an auto mechanic or dealer shop, auto parts store or do it yourself using a scan tool. Whichever option you choose, there are advantages and disadvantages.

Auto Mechanic or Dealer Shop

Diagnosing your CEL at an auto mechanic or dealer shop is an ideal option because there are many locations around you. The benefits of using any of these locations include access to a comprehensive diagnosis, getting a repair estimate and knowing what the problem may lead to if it is not fixed on time. The problem can also be repaired on that day if it is crucial and a time may be fixed to get the job done if it is mild. However, you should be ready to pay for this service.

Auto Parts Store

You can get your CEL diagnosed at an auto parts store close to you. Many of the stores will offer the service free of charge and the process does not take too much time. Usually, you will get a printout of the trouble codes as well as diagnosis with explanation and definition of possible problems along with causes.

It is important for you to note that auto parts stores are involved in selling parts. Hence, they may not have the capability of repairing your car but you can get parts from them. You should also not expect a comprehensive screening but may be a good starting point for identifying the problem.

Diagnose the Check Engine Light Yourself

It is not difficult to do the CEL screening yourself. You only need to get a scan tool, which costs around $60, to get the job done any time the light is blinking. This is a cost-effective option but you may not be able to carry out an all-inclusive investigation because you are not an expert in the field.

Possible Reasons For Your Check Engine Light To Come On

Blinking CEL is a sign that something may be wrong with your engine. If you ignore the sign, you could be left stranded when you don’t expect it. It may also cost you a lot of money to fix if you allow the problem to deteriorate. Here are some popular problems that can prompt your CEL.

Possible Reasons For Check Engine Light Come On

Possible Reasons For Check Engine Light Come On

Oxygen Sensor Failure

The function of the oxygen sensor, O2 sensor, is to measure the quantity of burnt oxygen in the exhaust system of your vehicle. It transmits data to the computer of your car and this is used in regulating the blend of fuel and air getting into the cylinders.

Your car will continue to run even when they oxygen sensor is faulty, but you should expect that more fuel will be burnt than usual. If it is not replaced in good time, it can lead to damage of other components such as the catalytic converter and spark plugs. It may also lead to failure of emissions test.

Averagely, replacing your O2 sensors can cost you around $175, especially if you want to get a product of high quality. Labour cost varies and this is greatly dependent on the make and model of your vehicle including your location. It is important for you to note that some cars, especially latest models, possess more than one oxygen sensor.

Loose Gas Cap

There can be blinking check engine light if gas cap is loose. The gas cap is very critical to the fuel delivery system of your vehicle. It does not allow the gasoline fumes to escape from the fuel tank and helps the system to function under an appropriate pressure.

If you discover that CEL comes on instantly after you fill your tank, you should try to pull over and make sure that the cap is properly tightened – it may even be on top of your car. In some instances, you will need to replace the cap and you can get one for about $15.

Catalytic Converter Failure

The catalytic converter is connected to the exhaust system of your automobile. It converts carbon monoxide produced during combustion to carbon dioxide. You can prevent its failure because replacing it with a new one can cost you between $250 and $600 relying on the make and version of your car.

Carrying out constant maintenance, like oil changes, will go a long way in making the catalytic converter of your car to work properly. If you are used to driving short distances, you should go to the highway once in a while so that the catalytic converter will not get clogged.

Spark Plug/Ignition Coil Issues

The ignition coil works by generating the electricity that the spark plugs will use to ignite the air and fuel mixture in the engine’s cylinders. In classic vehicles, you will find one coil in them but modern ones have one coil for one cylinder. So, if your engine has 8 cylinders, you should expect that it will have 8 coils. Consequently, if the coil malfunctions, the CEL may come on.

On the other hand, fouled or worn spark plugs can lead to many problems including reluctance under substantial acceleration and engine misfire. Replacing your spark plug may be in inevitable and you should be ready to cough out about $15. On the hand, getting your coil replaced can cost you about $50.

Mass Airflow Sensor Failure

The monitoring of the amount of air entering the engine is carried out by the mass airflow (MAF) sensor. When the MAF sensor fails, you will start seeing signs like trouble starting the engine, reduction in gas mileage, unexpected alteration in the disposition of the throttle pedal, among others. You should prepare about $130 in order to replace the MAF sensor.

Issue With An Aftermarket Alarm

If an aftermarket alarm is not properly installed, it can cause problems for your car. It can lead to battery drainage which can make the check engine light to come on and may even prevent your car from starting. In order to fix this problem, you will need to repair the alarm, get it re-installed or replace it with the assistance of a reliable auto mechanic.

Vacuum Leak

There is a vacuum system in every vehicle which carries out many functions. For example, the brake booster makes use of the vacuum system. Vacuum leak can lead to your car’s idle to rise or touches down at an extremely high rpm.

Vacuum leak can be caused by the drying out or cracking of vacuum hoses, particularly when they are vulnerable to severe heat or acute cold. It can also be caused by loose connections and cracked fittings.

Exhaust Gas Recirculation Valve Failure

The function of the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system is the lowering of the quantity of nitrogen oxide that is released from your engine and this helps in making it to run perfectly. In addition, it lowers emissions and guides hot dispersed gases back into the oxidation chambers so that the fuel can be warmed up and made to burn easily.

The valve of the EGR can be blocked which can lead to entire failure of the system. You can take off the valve, if you are a bit mechanically inclined, get it cleaned and reinstall it within a short time. Replacing the valve can cost you about $125 if you hope to get a new one.

Final Word

Diagnosing your check engine light for free will help in preventing damage to your car’s engine. By fixing the problem on time, you will avoid spending too much on a deteriorated problem.

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