What Does Your Check Engine Light Mean?


As vehicles age, or at the very least, acquire more drive time, many of us are faced at one point or another with the dreaded Check Engine Light.

While the check engine light is historically known to people as an indicator of something horrible, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s something simple like your gas cap isn’t closing properly anymore. Other times, it’s something more severe like your engine is misfiring.

With only one indicator on our dashboard to alert us of so many possible problems with our vehicle, how can you tell what your check engine light actually means? We’ll dive into that in this blog post and go over what the most catastrophic issues are that follow the check engine light coming on.

Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On

There are a whole host of issues that could potentially be going on with your vehicle when your check engine light comes on. That’s why it’s so important to have your vehicle checked out by a professional mechanic like a great mechanic at North Road Auto Repair. They can perform proper diagnostics to pinpoint the exact issue that’s happening with your car.

Possible Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On Include:

  • Fuel cap loose or damaged
  • MAF (mass airflow sensor) not functioning correctly
  • Spark plug or ignition coil need replacing
  • Electrical issues
  • Various hose leaks
  • Catalytic converter issues (failing)
  • Faulty O2 sensor
  • Throttle position sensor malfunctions
  • EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve issues
  • Loose or damaged manifold gasket
  • Another problem indicated by additional warning lights

These are just a few of the reasons your check engine light might be on. Although many of them may seem like they aren’t that serious, the majority of them are time sensitive. If left too long, the results can be catastrophic, and you could end up with a very expensive repair bill.

The good news is that if you end up with a repair bill that’s worth more than the vehicle itself, you can scrap your car with More Cash For Scrap. We always pay MORE cash for scrap cars than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Causes for Your Check Engine Light and What You Can Do About It

As mentioned before, there are many reasons why your check engine light might come on. Here we will elaborate on each possible cause, and what steps you need to take to rectify the issue.

1. Fuel Cap Loose or Damaged


This one is a pretty simple issue, with a simple solution. When your vehicle’s gas cap isn’t secured properly, it affects the way your vehicle uses fuel. This, in turn, can affect your vehicle’s performance in a variety of ways.

The solution to this issue typically is to ensure that you’ve tightened the gas cap fully after fueling up. Failing that, you may need a gas cap replacement. Your local mechanic can replace this usually on the same day.

2. Sensor Malfunctions

There are several different types of sensors in your vehicle to help it perform at its best. Some are responsible for air intake, some for optimal fuel delivery, and some are for throttle control. When a sensor malfunctions, it’s easy to notice.

Possible sensors that can malfunction include your o2 sensor, TPS, and MAF. When they malfunction, your vehicle sends out a code that can be read by your mechanic which points directly to the problem.

That’s why if you’re having any kind of performance issues with your vehicle while your check engine light is on, you should take it to your mechanic to find out what needs to be replaced. Only a proper diagnostic or code reader can determine which sensor needs replacing.

3. Spark Plug or Ignition Coil Issues


Spark plugs are one of those things that don’t need replacing often, but definitely should be when it’s needed. Typically, spark plug replacement is done every 150,000 kms, and if you routinely maintain your car at the mechanic’s, they will tell you when it’s time.

However, for those of us who don’t get our vehicles in for maintenance as often as we’d like, there is the CEL to indicate when this is required.

The same is said for the ignition coil. When it’s time to have either serviced or replaced, your check engine light will come on and your mechanic can tell you which, if either, needs replacing. If you fail to address either of these two issues, it can result in your engine misfiring, causing some serious damage, and a much heftier repair bill.

The good news is that if you’re already experiencing major engine problems, More Cash For Scrap is happy to buy vehicles with all sorts of engine and mechanical issues for MORE cash than our competitors.

4. Electrical Issues

A car’s electrical system is an incredibly intricate and delicate one. While generally vehicles are made to take a beating, electrical components and wiring can be finnicky. And unless you’re an electrician by trade and have extensive knowledge about cars, you should take your car to a mechanic whenever electrical problems present themselves.

Even once an electrical problem has been established by the CEL or your mechanic, repairing it can be trickier than you might think. That’s why electrical repairs are always so expensive, because the labour and detective work involved quickly increases the bill.

If you’ve got a vehicle that needs lengthy electrical work that you don’t want to put the time or money into, sell it to us instead. We pay MORE cash for scrap cars with electrical issues than any other scrap car removal business in BC.

5. Catalytic Converter Issues

Aside from your CEL coming on, usually when your catalytic converter needs attention, it’s obvious. Your vehicle will run poorly and produce worsening gas mileage. You would usually hear a rattling noise coming from under your vehicle as well, along with black smoke billowing out from it.

If that wasn’t enough, you might also notice a sulfuric smell coming from your exhaust. If you’ve got a check engine light that’s on, coupled with one of more of these other symptoms, you may need a new catalytic converter. Again, your local mechanic is the best judge of that.

A catalytic converter replacement is an expensive one. In fact, many of the junk cars we buy and scrap for our customers have either had their catalytic converter stolen or are in need of a replacement. With a price tag of at least $1500, it’s hardly worth it to do the repair on an older vehicle.

6. Loose or Damaged Manifold Gasket

This particular issue is also one that comes with a big price tag if it’s not dealt with in a timely manner.

The manifold gasket is responsible for helping to regulate the air intake in your vehicle’s engine. When the seal isn’t prominent, it allows air that should be entering your vehicle’s engine, to escape instead. This promotes poor gas mileage, and worse, misfiring.

Be sure to get your vehicle looked at promptly if you’re experiencing any performance issues and your check engine light is on. It will help you discern what the next best course of action should be.

7. Problems Indicated by the CEL & Another Indicator Light


While the check engine light’s primary purpose is to signal to the driver that their vehicle needs attention, it’s not the only warning light that alerts them. Other icons on your dashboard can illuminate along with the CEL, which not only tells the driver what the potential issue is, it tells the mechanic.

Things like your oil light and CEL being on together typically means that you have low oil, or low oil pressure. Since oil is vital in protecting your engine during use, it’s essential that you address that issue immediately.

Another thing to look out for is your CEL on with your battery warning light. This could either mean you need a new battery, that your alternator needs replacing, or any other possible voltage issue. Without immediate attention, this can leave you stranded on the side of the road without further warning.

For a full list of what all the dashboard warning signs are and what they mean, check out Car and Driver’s excellent blogpost on Dashboard Warning Lights Explained.

Can a Mechanic Shut Off the Check Engine Light?

Yes, they can. However, if you don’t address the issue causing the light to come on, the indicator light will return. Additionally, if you have the light disengaged, but don’t fix the cause of it, other issues could arise, and you won’t be alerted to them.

When the check engine light comes back on, you’ll likely think it’s because of whatever was causing it to come on in the first place. However, there could be a new issue presenting itself in addition to the old one.

This is a common mistake by people because they think they know what’s causing the CEL (check engine light) to come on, when in reality, there may be an entirely new and bigger mechanical issue with their vehicle.

This is often the reason why we see vehicles become scrap cars, even when they aren’t that old. Problems mounting on problems can very quickly be the end of a perfectly good vehicle.

Can I Sell My Car with the Check Engine Light On?

Yes, you absolutely can. Selling it privately might be tough, unless you disclose right away why the light is on, and what you’ve done to identify that. However, even if you let the buyer know that you are aware of the light and know what repairs are needed, you will likely still lose money on your sale.

That’s why it’s a better idea to have any potential problems relating to the CEL fixed before selling your car, or sell it to More Cash For Scrap instead. We buy vehicles in ANY condition, and we don’t mind if the check engine light is on, or why it’s on. We’ll simply buy you car for MORE cash than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley.

More Cash For Scrap Offers MORE Cash for Scrap Cars


Fortunately, for all things junk car related, we offer the most cash for scrap cars, trucks, SUV’s, and vans in the Lower Mainland. We purchase many vehicles with collision damage, major mechanical and electrical issues, and even vehicles with many minor mechanical problems.

If your car has a long list of repairs that you want to turn into quick cash, contact our team of scrap cars buyers today to get a free and instant cash offer on your car. We operate 7 days a week, day and evening, and even work on most statutory holidays too.

Contact Our Scrap Car Removal Specialists Today

If you have a vehicle that you want to scrap or sell for cash, we’re the ones to call. We offer MORE cash for scrap cars than any of our competitors. Also, we’re able to pick up vehicles the same day, and depending on your location, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes.

If you want reliable, professional, and prompt scrap car removal service in Metro Vancouver or the Fraser Valley, call our scrap car buying team today to get an instant cash offer right over the phone.

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Since 2005, we've specialized in turning our customer's scrap cars into quick cash. We buy vehicles in ANY condition and with ANY issues. We pay MORE cash for scrap cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans than any other scrap car removal company in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and Vancouver Island. If you want MORE cash, same day free junk car towing, and a reliable scrap car buying service, you want More Cash For Scrap.