Training to Become an Auto Service Technician? 4 Reasons Why the Check Engine Light Might Be On

If that little orange light on a vehicle’s dashboard turns on, it’s usually a signal that a driver should bring their vehicle in to be looked at by a mechanic. While there’s typically no reason for drivers to panic right away, the source of the problem should be determined as soon as possible in order to ensure that the car isn’t at risk of developing more serious damage. There are many different issues which could trigger the vehicle’s check engine light, and knowing how to properly diagnose the issue is an important skill for any mechanic to have. 

If you’re seeking a career as an auto mechanic, discover some of the most common reasons behind an illuminated check engine light below. 

1. If You Have Auto Mechanic Training, Check the Emissions Equipment

In today’s vehicles, exhaust systems are equipped with plenty of different systems and components that work together to control emissions. Due to the complexity of automotive emissions equipment, a failure of one of these components is a likely source of an illuminated check engine light. One of the most common pieces of equipment to fail is the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter converts carbon monoxide created by combustion into carbon dioxide, in order to reduce the harm of pollutant gases leaving the engine. The catalytic converter might be clogged, or one of the systems it relies on might be failing, such as the oxygen sensor. During your automotive service career, examine a vehicle’s emissions equipment in order to determine whether there’s a problem that could be activating the check engine light.

Various emissions equipment problems are likely to trigger an illuminated check engine light

2. The Best Case Scenario? A Loose Fuel Cap

While this one doesn’t typically require a trip to the mechanic, drivers often forget to check this component of their vehicle when the check engine light goes on. Fuel caps do more than just keep fuel contained—they also play an important role in preventing gasoline fumes from escaping the fuel tank, while maintaining the right amount of pressure within the fuel system. If the fuel cap is loose, this can lead to problems with fuel delivery, triggering the check engine light. In your automotive service career, make sure the fuel cap is one of the first components of the engine that you examine in the case of an illuminated check engine light.

3. Spark Plug Problems Can Trigger the Check Engine Light

Spark plugs work within the engine’s cylinders to ignite the mixture of fuel and air and power the engine. They get their electricity from an ignition coil, from which a spark plug wire transmits electricity from the coil to the spark plug itself. When a vehicle’s check engine light illuminates, a likely cause is a worn ignition coil, worn spark plug, or a faulty spark plug wire. If these components are not in working condition, the engine may misfire. When you become an auto service technician, be sure to check a vehicle’s spark plug configuration if a driver’s check engine light is on together with reported troubles accelerating. 

A check engine light accompanying acceleration issues could be due to a faulty spark plug

4. The Mass Airflow Sensor Could Be Experiencing Failure

Every vehicle is equipped with a mass airflow sensor. This device regulates and monitors the amount of air that enters the engine. With the information gathered from the mass airflow sensor, other engine components can gauge the amount of fuel needed to promote optimal engine performance. If this sensor is malfunctioning, a vehicle might have trouble starting, become more prone to stalling and experience reduced gas mileage. If a driver is experiencing these symptoms and their check engine light turns on, they’ll need your assistance to determine whether the mass air flow sensor needs to be reconfigured.

While these are just some of the potential reasons for an illuminated check engine light, familiarizing yourself with these common causes will help you to accurately diagnose vehicles during your career as an auto service technician.

Are you ready to begin your auto mechanic training?

Launch your career with a program at ATC Surrey today!

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