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What to do and not do when your vehicle engine light comes on

Pay attention to what your car or truck is telling you
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Your current vehicle might not have the communication capabilities of David Hasselhoff’s classic Knight Rider Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, but if you pay close attention there are times it’s trying to tell you something.

Take that engine light for example. Many drivers often ignore the sudden appearance of an engine light or sensor warning, assuming it’s nothing to worry about because the vehicle seems to be running normally. However, ignoring warnings signs coming from your vehicle’s operating systems could quickly lead to serious and costly issues.

“It’s always good to have it checked whenever your engine light comes on,” said Vince Klimkosz, owner of the two locations of Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-it in Guelph. “If the engine light comes on it usually means there’s a malfunction with one of your emission controls. But it could also mean something more serious.”

There’s a litany of potential problems that could be surfacing any time your dashboard gets illuminated by warning lights. For example, any of these issues could trigger a warning light:

  • Loose gas cap
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Catalytic convertor problems
  • Misfiring engine / spark plug issue
  • Ignition coil problem
  • Mass airflow sensor malfunction
  • Broken thermostat
  • Fuel injector problem
  • Evaporative emissions purge solenoid

The technology incorporated into today’s vehicle design means there are many more systems that could be experiencing problems. However, Klimkosz says that same technology often makes it easier to diagnosis the problem quickly and easily.

“People are often able to use their vehicles to figure out for themselves why the engine light is on,” he said. “Many new models have built in diagnostics that are able to tell you why the light is on. It could tell you the left front tire is low on air or the gas cap is loose.

A lot of vehicles allow you to download an app that connects to the car to get a status update on your operating systems. If there are real problems, many cars have fail safes built in that allow you to drive up to 60 kilometres so you can get into a shop for repair.”

Even with those built in contingencies, Klimkosz says that it’s never a good idea to ignore warning lights on your vehicles. Such preliminary warning systems are built into vehicles by manufacturers to help aid drivers in identifying minor problems before they become major issues.

Driving with a broken tire pressures sensor, for example, may not affect the actual performance of your vehicle, but it does alert you to any possible

Next time your vehicle is trying to tell you something, be sure to listen. Bring it into Vinnie’s for proper service. Book your appointment online by visiting Vinnie’s Mr. Fix-It at Or drop by either of their two Guelph locations: 30 Hayes Avenue, or 41 Woodlawn Road West.