No matter how good of a day you may be enjoying, seeing the check engine light suddenly appear on your dashboard will very likely stress you out. Imagine driving down Glenwood Avenue or through the North Hills on your day off; you just recently got some shopping done and are ready to head home and relax in the afternoon before preparing to go out at night. In the minds of many drivers, such as the perfect day could be ruined with a glance at the check engine light. Automotive engineers are aware of the anxiety that check engine light diagnostics produce, and they are working on ways to change this status quo.
The check engine light is part of the onboard diagnostics system introduced by American automakers in the early 1960s as part of the Clean Air Act passed by the United States Congress years earlier. Around this time, emissions control and fuel injection systems were introduced for the purpose of increasing fuel efficiency. Also for miles per gallon, and cleaner emissions. More strict emissions regulations in California prompted automakers to improve the data link connectors in order to detect catalytic converter failures. Over time, the OBD system was upgraded to accommodate other issues related to modern engines.
It should be noted that check engine lights are installed in cars powered by internal combustion engines. This includes hybrids such as the Toyota Prius but not plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) such as Tesla and the Nissan Leaf. The future of the check engine light is uncertain because more drivers in North Carolina are showing interest in EVs. However, this only means that OBD systems will be different even though their underlying functionality will remain the same. To alert drivers about issues developing under the hood.
What the Check Engine Light Can Reveal About Your Car
Before we get into what the future of check engine light diagnostics will be like in the years to come, let’s review some of the issues that prompt this electronic system to light up:
Fixed Light Versus Blinking Light
Although it is always better to always pay attention to the check engine visual signals, most automakers have programmed the system with fixed and blinking lights. For the most part, you will probably reach a safe destination when the light comes on and stays on; however, blinking lights indicate problems that should be addressed sooner than later.
Spark Plug Issues
A faulty spark plug or wire will not only result in the check engine light coming on but also in decreased performance. You may notice sluggish acceleration and less fuel efficiency.
When you bring your car to the shop, our technicians will scan the OBD system for numerical codes returned by the engine’s multiple sensors. When these codes reveal a faulty catalytic converter. Chances are that you will not pass emissions testing required in many counties across North Carolina.
The exhaust gas re-circulation valve is an integral part of fuel efficiency, which is at the heart of modern engine performance and lower emissions.
Loose Gas Cap
If for any reason you did not fasten the fuel tank cap at the gas station, the check engine light will come on; in this case you can readjust it yourself and the light will turn off. If the cap is damaged, the light will likely come on again a few miles down the road.
This part is not that expensive to replace, but it is crucial in terms of engine performance. Once you have put more than 60,000 miles in your car, chances are that the O2 sensor will start malfunctioning.
What Will Happen to the Check Engine Light?
Car buying trends suggest that more drivers will be looking at EV purchases in the future. Let’s not forget that Tesla and other automakers are looking at the possibility of releasing more electric pick-up trucks. When EVs become the norm, check engine lights will be part of history. This is because they are power by motors instead of internal combustion engines.
Check engine light anxiety will not go away completely with EVs. When looking at the Tesla Model 3, the touchscreen will sometimes display a message stating that the car needs service; furthermore, if you are an original Tesla owner, you will be prompt to contact the automaker for a remote scan. In the case of the Nissan Leaf, a diagnostics report is somewhat hidden in the touchscreen menu options. However, you will get messages indicating issues with the battery power plant and the motor.
The reality of the Nissan Leaf is that data is extract from an OBD port. That is almost the same as the one install in modern cars that run on fuel. What this suggests about the future of check engine light diagnostics is that some automakers will make notifications more specific. Also, you will see less of them on your dashboard and instrument control panel, thus relieving some anxiety. Choosing to ignore these alerts, however, will be equally risky.