Ask the Mechanic

Thursday July 29 2021
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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE CHECK ENGINE LIGHT KEEPS FLASHING?

You are driving, when suddenly the dreadful yellow-orange Check Engine Light comes on! What should you do?

Every car has an assortment of car warning lights on the dashboard and they all have a different meaning. The check engine light is easily identified. It looks like an engine and typically includes words such as “check.” Usually yellow or red.

Its main function is to let you, as the driver, know that one of the car’s sensors is not functioning correctly. The check engine light will either be in a solid unblinking state or flashing.

Whenever you start your car you will notice that the check engine light glows temporarily – usually for around six seconds. Every error light has a corresponding error code. These are diagnosed, and explained, by an OBD2 Scanner.

The Check Engine Light, also called the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) is a warning light that indicates a malfunction with your vehicle.

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When something goes wrong in this complex collection of components and sensors, it triggers this light.

It is usually displayed on your dashboard as a pictogram or symbol of an engine, or sometimes simply Check Engine, or Check Engine Soon.

Did You Know? – When you start the car, the check engine light always comes on. But if no problems are detected, it should turn off within six seconds.

When the check engine light does stay on… Do not. Panic.

Check whether your car is behaving differently. Is it bucking, surging, or making unusual sounds?

If you observe nothing strangely unusual, you could keep driving to your nearest garage to have the problem fixed.

The warning light usually has two stages: the Steady (indicating a minor fault); and Flashing (indicating a severe fault). When the light is on, the engine control unit actually stores a fault code related to the malfunction, which can be read and interpreted by an On-Board-Diagnostics or OBD2 scan tool.

The most common causes for the check engine light to come on are;

Faulty oxygen sensor

The oxygen sensor measures the amount of oxygen in your exhaust system. When your oxygen sensor is faulty, your car will use up more fuel and produce more emissions.

Faulty gas/fuel cap

A cracked, faulty or loose gas cap / fuel cap can cause your engine light to come on – mainly because the fuel system has a vapour leak.  In other cases, it could be a more serious leak in the upper portion of the fuel system. Tighten or replace the gas cap.

Faulty mass airflow sensor

The mass airflow sensor or MAF Sensor helps your car’s computer determine the amount of fuel to be added based on the amount of air coming into the motor.

Faulty spark plugs

Do you replace your vehicle’s spark plugs according to your car’s maintenance schedule in your manual? If you’re not sure, check with your service provider. If not, bad or failing spark plugs could be the reason your check engine light is on. Have them replaced as soon as possible by a certified mechanic.

Faulty charging system

Unless you want to find yourself in a situation where you need to jump-start your car, ensure you have your battery checked regularly and that the charging system is working smoothly.

If your car won’t start, the problem could be a fault with the alternator or some other part of the vehicle’s electrical charging system.

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MY CAR KEY HAS STARTED JAMMING

My remote car key often refuses to open the door.  This irritating problem has been going on for some time now. What should be the way forward?

A key fob that refuses to unlock the door on your vehicle can be really frustrating, and possibly even dangerous - especially if there is a child or pet locked inside your vehicle. So here are some reasons why your remote key fob or smart fob isn’t unlocking the door, and what you can do to resolve the problem.

If nothing happens when you press the unlock button on your remote or key fob, any of the following could be causing your problem:

The battery inside your remote fob or smart key fob is dead or too low to send out a good signal. Open the fob and replace the battery.

The keyless entry system receiver(s) on your vehicle may not be picking up the signal from the key fob. Try holding the fob right next to the door handle when pressing the unlock button. If it unlocks the door, the problem may be a weak battery in the key fob, or a problem in the keyless entry antenna or wiring.

The key fob itself could be defective or have a bad unlock button. Try the lock button, trunk release button or panic button. If the other buttons work, the problem is a bad unlock button. You will need a new key fob. If none of the other buttons work, and you have tried a new battery in the fob, the fob may be bad, or the fault may be in the keyless entry antenna or wiring.

Your key fob has lost its entry code. Many vehicles use a rolling code that changes each time you use the fob to unlock or start your vehicle. If miscommunication has messed up the code in the fob, you may have to have it reprogrammed by a car dealer.

The power door locks may be defective. A fault in the wiring or control circuitry, or even a blown fuse may be preventing the power door locks from unlocking. This will require further diagnosis of the electrical system to determine the fault.

Your car battery is extremely low or dead.

This may require a jump start or replacing the car battery before the power doors will unlock. Of course you probably won’t be able to open the hood until you can get inside the vehicle by other means.

WHY DOES MY STEERING WHEEL SHAKE?

What could be the cause of my shaky steering wheel? This problem has been ongoing for quite some time now.

No driver likes it when their steering wheel starts shaking. This is a sure sign that there is something going wrong with your vehicle, and it can also make driving unnecessarily stressful and scary. If the road is smooth and your ride still feels jerky, there’s nothing to blame except for the vehicle itself. 

There are multiple potential causes for a shaking steering wheel. Depending on how your car is shaking, it may provide clues that can help a car repair professional resolve the issue. Once you notice the problem, take note of when it gets worse. For example, is it worse at high speeds or low speeds? Is it worse when you are braking? All of this information can help a mechanic determine the cause of your shaky steering wheel.

Tires out of balance

This is the most obvious and the most common reason that you might experience a shaking steering wheel. If your tyres are out of alignment or out of balance, they may send shakes through your vehicle and to the steering wheel.

Problems with brake rotors

If your steering wheel shakes a lot while you are braking, that could mean that your rotors are out of round. In other words, the rotors have started to wear out, lose their shape, and become warped.

In this instance, you’re also likely to feel some vibrations through the brake pedal whenever you press your foot down on it.

The brakes are an extremely important component of your car.

Worn suspension components

Unlike problems with the tyres and brake rotors, it is also possible for suspension and alignment problems to cause shaking while driving. Shaking as a result of a worn ball joint or tie rod is more common in older vehicles than newer ones, so this deserves some extra consideration if you’ve been driving the same car for a while.

What to do when your steering wheel shakes

The best exact course of action will depend on the specific problem, but there is one general thing you should always do when your steering wheel starts shaking: Seek immediate help.

The symptoms you are noticing could be signs of a severe problem that threatens the longevity or safety of your vehicle.

Take it to a qualified car mechanic so they can tell you what is going wrong and what you need to do to fix it.

FAULTY IGNITION COIL

The Ignition Coil is part of your vehicle’s ignition system. It functions as an induction coil by converting a vehicle’s voltage to the required volts so that it triggers the spark plug to ignite the engine’s air-fuel mixture. When the ignition coil burns or shorts, the check engine light will come on. If the ignition coil is faulty, it is worth getting your entire vehicle’s ignition system checked by a mechanic or auto-electrician.

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