There are other dashboard lights that require more immediate attention; for example, the door ajar and oil lamps are indicative of situations that you should look into and address before you continue driving. Unless your car smells strongly of gasoline or you notice smoke coming from the front or the back of your car at the same time the check engine light comes on, you should not be worried about imminent breakdown.
When the check engine light comes on, a few issues come to mind:
* Damaged catalytic converter.
* Mass airflow sensor malfunction.
* Loose or damaged fuel tank cap.
* Deficient spark plugs or wires.
* Oxygen sensor malfunction.
CarMD, an automotive market research firm, recently published a national study on the cost of repairs related to check engine light issues, specifically replacing a faulty oxygen sensor. Failure to replace this sensor in a timely manner can result in lower fuel economy, a higher rate of polluting emissions, poor performance, and eventual damage of the catalytic converter.
Average Cost of Check Engine Light Repairs
The 2017 CarMD Vehicle Health Index provides a snapshot of the average cost of repairs based on replacing the oxygen sensor after the check engine light comes on. The national average for this repair is around $380 for parts and labor, which is approximately car owners in North Carolina can expect to pay. This is not the case for drivers in Connecticut, a state where the average cost of replacing this sensor is $411, and it could be a lot higher for luxury vehicles.
Surprisingly, drivers in Hawaii pay less than their counterparts in Connecticut and North Carolina: $346 on average, and this has to do with the fact that many sensors are imported from Japan. The most affordable state for this repair is Michigan, and this has a lot to do with the strong presence of the automotive industrial in the Great Lakes region.
Drivers in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Georgia, and the District of Columbia have financial reasons to worry about whenever they see the check engine light come on; these are the states with the highest costs of auto repairs. It is important to remember that the oxygen sensor does not always have to be repaired when you notice that light in your dashboard; there is a chance that your gas cap may be loose or failing to make a proper seal.
The real problem with the check engine light arises when you choose to ignore it completely. You will be fine if the light turns off after you adjust or replace the gas cap; however, you really want to have your car checked sooner than later. If money is an issue at the time, it would be a good idea to let auto repair technicians check the issue and determine the codes given by the engine control module so that a repair estimate can be issued. The technicians may be able tell you how many miles you can safely drive with the check engine light still on; in the meantime, you can save up for the repairs or think about the financial resources you will need to allocate.
In the end, the check engine light is not the end of the world, but you certainly do not want to compromise your vehicle by ignoring the issue until the catalytic converter completely deteriorates; if this happens, you could be looking at repair costs upwards of $1,000.