Photo: Flickr / Lee Bennett
CarMD’s second annual vehicle health report just hit the Web and it’s a must-read for anyone on the road today. The reason? With the average age of consumers’ cars nearing the 11-year mark, all that wear and tear will undoubtedly result in more visits to the dreaded auto shop.
We all know that’s basically synonymous with “money,” which is why 65 per cent of Americans say they let their ‘check engine’ lights blaze away without investigating.
Trouble is you might actually be ignoring one of the most common repairs you can fix yourself–or setting yourself up for disaster.
Here are the top 5 reasons your check engine light could come on:
1. O2 Sensor: The most common repair for the second year running, a faulty o2 sensor can reduce your gas mileage by a whopping 40 per cent. That’s tantamount to throwing away $900 per year in extra fuel costs.
The fix: “If you can work a wrench you can fix an oxygen sensor,” says Art Jacobsen, vice president, CarMD. Just locate the sensor (use your car manual for guidance), unclip it and slip in the new one.
2. Damaged gas cap: Loose or missing gas caps can be blamed for 147 million in evaporated gas each year and can reduce your gas mileage by .5 per cent, according to CarMD.
The fix: It costs 5 bucks to buy one new at the store.
3. Catalytic converter: “In most cases, a catalytic converter won’t fail unless a related part – such as a spark plug – is ignored for too long,” the report says. You really don’t want that to happen. It’s a $1,000 repair and can will suck the life out of your gas tank.
The fix: The most common reason for catalytic converter failure is a faulty spark plug. They cost about $10 and will trigger your ‘check engine’ light if they’re out of whack. If your converter’s already tanked, you’ll have to take it to a mechanic, Jacobsen advises. This isn’t a DIY kind of repair.
4. Replacing ignition coils. This is another problem that can be traced back to bad spark plugs, as well as too much heat under the or just plain old age. It’ll ding your gas mileage by 20 per cent, too.
The fix: Check your spark plug and don’t let your car overheat. If you’re too late, it’s time to head to the auto shop where you’ll shell out about $300.
5. Mass air flow sensor: Get ready to see your gas mileage reduced by as much as 25 per cent if you let this go unrepaired. The most common cause is leaving your air filters unchanged and drivers in dusty, dry regions in the states have it worst.
The fix: Change your air filters (about $25) or you’re setting yourself up for this one. Repairing a mass air flow sensor runs at about $400 these days.
Here’s the rest of the top 20: