What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

If you're like most people, you get a sinking sensation in the pit of your stomach when you see the "check engine light" turn on. That light, which normally appears as an engine symbol on your dashboard, indicates that something is wrong. You probably don't need to pull over and ask for a tow truck, but your vehicle does require quick care. At Houska Automotive, we have professional diagnosis software and hardware to determine the reason your Toyota’s check engine light came on. From there, we will accurately find the issue and make the appropriate repairs or replacements. Learn about Toyota check engine lights and how we can help. When your check engine light comes on, schedule your repairs at Houska Automotive in Fort Collins.

Engine Light Diagnostic Testing in Fort Collins, CO

Common Causes for Toyota Check Engine Light

If your check engine light turns on, it might be as easy as tightening or replacing your gas cap. Alternatively, the check engine light might indicate a significant malfunction that could cause serious engine damage and result in a large repair cost. The check engine light will glow or blink depending on the condition. A constant glow usually signals nothing significant, but a flashing check engine light warns that your vehicle's engine is in critical danger and that quick servicing is required. You should turn off your vehicle immediately to avoid severe damage.

Here are some of the most common causes for your check engine light to turn on:

Oxygen Sensor Failure

Also called an O2 sensor, the oxygen sensor measures the amount of unburned oxygen in a vehicle's exhaust system. It helps regulate the air and fuel that enters the system's cylinders. If ignored, a malfunctioning 02 sensor can damage spark plugs and the catalytic converter and cause your vehicle to use more gas than needed.

Loose Gas Cap

As we mentioned earlier, this seems trivial, but a loose gas cap is actually a very important part of a vehicle's fuel system and one of the most common reasons a check engine light goes on. The cap helps keep fumes from leaving the tank and keeps the whole fuel system under the right pressure. So if the cap is loose or not even on (after leaving a gas station, for instance), the check engine light will go on.

Malfunctioning Spark Plug / Ignition Coil

An ignition coil generates the electricity spark plugs need to ignite the fuel in the cylinders. Many vehicles use one coil per cylinder, so if you have a V8 vehicle, you could have eight coils. If one of them is not working, it will trigger the check engine light to go on.

Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow sensor in your Toyota detects the volume of air entering the engine and determines how much fuel is needed to run efficiently. Engines need proper fuel and air mixture to operate. Any deviation in this formula can cause misfires and other issues. The mass airflow sensor assists in adjusting to variations in altitude as well. A malfunctioning mass airflow sensor might cause your Toyota to have difficulties starting, idle roughly, or cause a sudden shift in the position of the acceleration pedal.

Failed or Missing Catalytic Converter

Your Toyota's exhaust system includes a catalytic converter. The purpose of a catalytic converter is to convert carbon monoxide produced by combustion into carbon dioxide. If you ignore a problem with your catalytic converter, your Toyota will fail an emissions test, exhibit poor engine performance, and have a severe impact on your fuel efficiency. It will also sound incredibly loud. Most people will notice this shockingly different sound when they turn their Toyota on immediately.

Spark Plugs

The other component needed for your engine to run besides air and fuel is a spark. Your spark plugs are in charge of igniting the fuel/air combination in your engine's combustion chamber. If they fail, you'll have difficulties starting your car, as well as acceleration and fuel economy issues. Spark plugs may be failing as well instead of completely broken. You may be able to start your Toyota, but experience significantly decreased acceleration. This can also trip your check engine light.

Low or Dead Battery

This is one of the most common reasons a check engine light comes on. Fortunately, it is also one of the easiest issues to fix. A new battery replacement is quick, affordable, and one of the easiest repair jobs available to get you back on the road.

Check Engine Light Diagnostic Testing

Houska Automotive offers check engine light diagnostic testing, starting a $125. Diagnostic testing will easily take the guesswork out of those codes. Our technicians will reveal what’s behind your Toyota check engine light message. Once we understand the problem, we’ll get you in for an appointment to take care of it.

There are drivers that ignore the check engine light, hoping the problem will just fix itself or go away – trying to avoid any big repair bills. If you don't see anything unusual and the gas cap is on tight, it's still important to have the check engine light read and the problem fixed. Avoidance could eventually backfire on you, even if it seems like your vehicle is running fine with the light on. Many problems are not visible from outside the vehicle, so better to be safe now than sorry later. Ignoring potential problems or needed repairs could very well lead to bigger problems and bigger repair bills. It's also not a good idea to try to diagnose the problem on your own. Wrong diagnosis or improper repairs can also lead to bigger and more expensive bills. The best route to take in this case is to get your vehicle checked by a trusted and certified service technician as soon as possible. You'll get an accurate assessment and reliable repairs. It'll also prevent any further problems in the future, as well as give you peace of mind that the problem was properly taken care of.

The Difference Between The Check Engine Light And Service Engine Soon Light

Yes, there's a difference. And it's a big difference. The check engine light indicates that there is a problem with your vehicle's engine, and it should be given your immediate attention. Most often, the service engine light is a reminder to service your vehicle and bring it in for maintenance. Low oil is usually the common offender in triggering the service engine light. Never take your check engine light notification lightly. Delaying servicing your Toyota when it has the check engine light illuminated can cause severe damage and also be dangerous while you drive.

Schedule Your Toyota Maintenance at Houska Automotive

Look to Houska Automotive as your Toyota service shop whether you have a minor or major issue with your vehicle. Even if your car isn't a Toyota, our ASE-certified experts will assist you in correctly diagnosing and repairing your vehicle. To make an appointment, fill out our online form or call (970) 482-1496.

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