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What to Do When Your Toyota’s Check Engine Light Comes On

Posted at Fri, Jul 6, 2018 4:15 PM

Nearly everyone who drives has had the misfortune at one point or another of looking down to see that the check engine light has come on. Usually that realization is accompanied by a sinking feeling in your stomach, because that seems like a pretty big problem, right? Not necessarily!

There’s more than one reason why that particular indicator light comes on, and we here at Westbury Toyota are here to tell you that it’s not always a worst-case scenario. In fact, it could be something very trivial, which is why it’s important not to panic if this happens to you. Instead of worrying, there are a few things you can do to determine the cause of the problem before you need to bring your Toyota in for a visit with Westbury Toyota's team of trained mechanics.

Learn What the Check Engine Light Actually Means

It’s common to assume that the only time this particular warning light comes on is when your engine is seriously misfiring. The actual fact of the matter, explains the editorial staff of Consumer Reports, is much different: The check engine light is your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system telling you it’s found a problem in the electronic systems that it can’t resolve. Any time that happens, the check engine light comes on in order to notify you that there is a problem – but unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you just what that is!

Check Your Gas Cap

One of the most trivial reasons for the check engine indicator coming on is an issue with the gas cap. Because the gas cap both keeps pressure within the fuel tank and acts as a seal, the diagnostics system is programmed to alert you if it detects something wrong with it. In the event that you’re dealing with an active check engine light, check to make sure your gas cap isn’t loose, missing, or damaged. If it’s any of those, that could be the root of your problem. Tighten it or replace it and then check your instrument panel again to see if the light remains on.

Use a Diagnostic Tool

As the writer’s over at Driver’s Edge point out,most modern vehicles on the road today have a port where you can plug in a diagnostic tool. Obviously not everyone’s going to have one of these on hand, but if you do, it might be able to save you a trip to the mechanic. Plug your diagnostic tool into your Toyota’s diagnostic port to see what kind of error code it gives you. Once you’ve got the code, you’ll be able to discover the real reason the check engine light has come on. It might be something you’re able to fix on your own, but if not, it’s time to bring it in for one of our trusted Toyota technicians to look at.

Check (or Replace) the Oxygen Sensor

If you’ve got the know-how, your car’s oxygen sensor can be fairly easy to check or replace. The sensor is often the cause of a check engine light coming on because they tend to get clogged and dirtied, which directly influences the important data it feeds to the car’s computer.

A faulty sensor can increase the amount of emissions your car emits, says Thorin Klosowski of Lifehacker, and can also reduce your car’s mileage, so it’s important to keep it working properly. If the sensor is the problem and you’re able to replace it on your own, go right ahead. Otherwise, our team would be more than happy to expertly handle this issue on your behalf.

Proceed with Caution

There is a reason modern cars come with warning lights, and that’s to keep drivers informed about potential problems. While you shouldn’t panic right away if your Toyota’s check engine light comes on, you should take the steps outlined above to figure out why it’s on. Eliminate the possible easy to see/reach reasons, like the gas cap or oxygen sensor, and if that doesn’t work, use your diagnostic tool or bring your vehicle in to Westbury Toyota for a professional diagnostic exam. Even if the problem is minor, it’s best not to forget about it because it can lead to more serious problems for your Toyota later on.

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