Check Engine Light On? Could Be A Faulty O2 Sensor

According to the annual CarMD® Vehicle Health Index™ one of the most common check engine light repairs is replacing the oxygen sensor. This relatively minor repair can be costly if neglected, leading to as much as 40 percent lower fuel efficiency, causing further damage to your vehicle’s exhaust system and adversely impacting the environment.

“Vehicles with faulty oxygen sensors typically seem to drive and handle well, but the malfunction can dramatically decrease fuel efficiency and lead to costlier repairs if ignored,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “A faulty oxygen sensor means your vehicle is emitting more pollutants and if the check engine light is illuminated, it may not pass vehicle emissions testing in those states requiring it for vehicle registration.”

A vehicle’s oxygen sensors are mounted in the exhaust system; they monitor the catalytic convertor’s operation and the level of oxygen in exhaust gases to maintain efficient engine operation. The best way to prevent an oxygen sensor failure is to follow a regular service schedule, including routine oil changes.

Unlike the past nine years of the annual CarMD report, costly catalytic converter replacement edged out O2 sensor replacement as the most common check engine light repair. Catalytic converters do not typically fail unless maintenance and other repairs are ignored or the vehicle is older. Average vehicle age has increased from 10.6 years to 11.7 years over the past decade, contributing to this outcome.

“It is important that car owners check the reason for an illuminated check engine light without delay and make necessary maintenance to avoid more costly repairs, like catalytic converter replacement, down the road,” said White. “If you find your vehicle needs service, call your trusted local repair shop as automotive repair is considered an essential service.”

The Car Care Council’s popular Car Care Guide features helpful information about the check engine light. Available in English and Spanish, a free printed copy of the 80-page Car Care Guide can be ordered by visiting www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.

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Keep Maintaining Your Vehicle Even If It Sits Idle

With a majority of vehicle owners living in areas of the country that have stay-at-home orders, many vehicles may be sitting idle for days or weeks at a time. The non-profit Car Care Council recommends starting your car at least once a week and keeping up with routine auto care to help prevent potential maintenance issues.

“Just as it is recommended that people stay active during this time of social distancing, your car should get some activity as well,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “If your vehicle sits idle for too long, the battery could die, the tires can develop flat spots and the engine oil may start to deteriorate. Just a short solo drive once a week and a little car care will keep your car running efficiently and safely.”

When starting your car weekly, let it run for at least five minutes. If the vehicle is started in a garage, make sure the garage door is open and there is plenty of ventilation. In addition, the Car Care Council suggests monitoring the following areas of your vehicle if it sits idle for long periods of time.

Battery – Today’s vehicles have several computers that are always in operation, so if a car sits too long without recharging, the battery could die within a couple of weeks.

Tires – Maintain proper tire pressure to improve vehicle performance and gas mileage. Doing so is also important for vehicle safety. Checking the tire pressure frequently is more important if the car is parked for long periods of time. Vehicles that sit idle too long can develop flat spots, so taking a brief drive every once in a while will help prevent bald spots, and recharge the battery, too.

Fuel – Today’s modern fuel systems help preserve the life of the gas in your tank and also prevent fuel oxidation. Keeping a full tank of gas helps limit gas-tank condensation. If you are still concerned about the gas in your tank going bad, a fuel stabilizer may help extend the life of your fuel.

Oil – If a car sits too long, the oil can deteriorate, so continue to change the oil at the proper time intervals, even if you are not driving your normal mileage. It is always best to check the owner’s manual for the maximum time you should wait between oil changes.

Brakes – If a car sits idle, rust can start to form on the brake rotors, especially if the car is parked outside. Driving your car at least once a week will help prevent rust buildup.

Cleaning – Removing the grime and sediment that builds up on the outside of your car helps prevent rust, and cleaning the interior is important, too. Wipe down the dashboard, steering wheel, cup holders, door handles, vents and console with a quality, all-purpose automotive cleaner that will help disinfect the interior areas of your vehicle.

For more helpful information about maintaining your vehicle for safety, dependability and value, visit www.carcare.org/car-care-guide to order the Car Care Council’s free 80-page Car Care Guide.

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Observe National Car Care Month with a Driveway Vehicle Check

National Car Care Month in April is the perfect time for simple driveway car care to make sure your vehicle is operating safely and dependably for essential trips during this trying time, says the Car Care Council.

“A driveway vehicle check only takes about 10 minutes. These simple steps will help keep you on the road so you can run important errands and arrive safely to your destinations,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “If you find your vehicle needs service, automotive repair is considered essential, so call your trusted local repair shop. Many shops have remained open in stay-at-home areas and most have instituted polices to ensure limited personal contact, allowing you to drop off and pick up your vehicle quickly and safely.”

The non-profit Car Care Council suggests inspecting the following items as part of a simple driveway vehicle inspection:

  • Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.
  • Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation. Keep the reservoir filled with solvent.

The Car Care Council’s 80-page Car Care Guide can be ordered free-of-charge by visiting www.carcare.org/car-care-guide. Available in English and Spanish, the popular guide features helpful information about maintaining your vehicle for safety, dependability and value.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.

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The Pitfalls of Potholes: Look for the Warning Signs of Vehicle Damage

Drivers who live in cold and wet climates are all too familiar with what happens to roadways when the ice begins to thaw or flooding occurs. Potholes appear and they are a major pitfall of springtime driving. While hitting one can give you a jolt, it can also seriously damage your vehicle.

The non-profit Car Care Council urges motorists who have hit a pothole to watch out for the following warning signs that key safety-related systems may have been damaged:

  • Steering and suspension: Loss of control, including swaying when making routine turns, bottoming out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads
  • Alignment: Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear
  • Tires: Low tire pressure, bulges, blisters on the sidewalls or dents in the wheel rim

“We recently surveyed drivers throughout the country and found that nearly all have hit a pothole at some point, but only one-third of those motorists had their vehicle checked after doing so,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Potholes can pack a powerful punch, adversely affecting a vehicle’s handling and performance. If you hit one, be sure to look for the warning signs of damage and have your vehicle inspected to ensure safe, dependable operation.”

To learn more about the pitfalls of potholes, view the Car Care Council’s “Dangers of Potholes” video on the council’s YouTube channel or visit www.carcare.org.

 The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.orgmedia.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.

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Avoid Car Trouble with a Belt Check

You may not see them, or know much about them, but engine belts are always working to keep your vehicle moving. Losing a belt can mean immediate trouble for the engine and a breakdown for you. To avoid being stranded, the non-profit Car Care Council recommends that motorists review the owner’s manual to ensure that belts are inspected and replaced at the proper intervals.

A vehicle’s belts are essential to the cooling, air conditioning and charging systems of the engine. Serpentine belts are used to turn the water pump, alternator, power steering and air-conditioning compressor. Older cars use V-belts for various accessories.

Always check serpentine and V-belts for looseness and their overall condition. Replace V-belts when cracked, frayed, glazed or showing signs of excessive wear. Noise in the belt system is a sign of wear and the smell of burnt rubber can indicate a slipping belt. When changing a serpentine belt, it is important to check all the components in the serpentine system as tensioners and pulleys wear at the same rate as the belt and should be inspected.

Typical serpentine belt replacement is 60,000 to 90,000 miles. Typical V-belt replacement is 40,000 to 50,000 miles. Replace timing belt per interval specified in the owner’s manual.

“Why risk being stranded when a bad belt can be diagnosed with simple routine maintenance?” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Inspecting and replacing belts as specified in your owner’s manual will help you avoid the hassle and expense of a sudden breakdown.”

The Car Care Council’s free 80-page Car Care Guide features several pages of information on the functionality of belts and when to replace them. Available in English and Spanish, the popular guide fits easily in a glove box and can be ordered by visiting www.carcare.org/car-care-guide.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For the latest car care news, visit the council’s online media room at media.carcare.org. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at www.carcare.org.

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