Don’t let summer heat put you in check-engine hot water

Is interior technology in today's vehicles making it harder to drive safely? Some say yes.

The winter driving woes are in the rear-view mirror and up ahead is a wide open road of warmth and sunshine. Spring and summer are undoubtedly some of the best seasons of the year, if for no other reason than the fact that the daily commute isn’t a bridge into the great unknown, as icy streets and snow-covered back roads tend to make for white-knuckled rides.

Plus, thanks to the more pleasant weather elements, you’re not as likely to get those dreaded “check engine” light warnings that never seem to occur at a convenient time.

“Small engine problems can become large ones when they’re put off.”

However, as the Car Care Council advises, it’s important not to let the more comfortable outdoor conditions lead you to letting check engine warnings go unaddressed, even if you think the alert may be a false positive or can be put off until tomorrow.

Rich White, Car Care Council executive director, noted that not taking action on minor issues can lead to major ones, as rarely do automotive issues fix themselves.

“Many people fear that when the check engine light comes on, it is going to mean several hundred or more dollars in repairs, so they ignore the light and hope the problem goes away,” White explained. “Data from CarMD makes it clear that not addressing the cause of an illuminated check engine light can cost you in terms of wasted fuel and more expensive repairs in the future.”

Senior citizen driving, auto insurance
Ignoring a check-engine light can cause more expensive repairs down the road.

Average check engine light repair costs $357
Indeed, last year, the Irvine, California-based automotive diagnostics firm found that it cost approximately $357 to fix when combining parts and labor. While that average is down 10 percent compared to 2016, it’s still higher than 2007, when the average was $334.

David Rich, technical director at CarMD, indicated that check engine lights illuminate for a variety of reasons, but one thing that they almost always have in common is their relationship to reduced overall vehicle performance. That’s always a problem, but especially when gas prices are on the rise, like they are today – a trend that’s expected to continue as the all-important travel season gets going.

“As the summer driving season approaches and gas prices inch past $3.00 per gallon, CarMD reminds vehicle owners that when the check engine light is on, even if your car seems to be driving fine, it will suffer from reduced fuel economy,” Rich advised. “It’s important to have it looked at as soon as possible – especially if the check engine light is blinking, which can indicate a serious problem.”

Malfunctioning oxygen sensors among top ‘check engine’ issues
The good news is when check engine lights make themselves known, they’re usually due to problems that are fairly hassle-free. For instance, based on CarMD’s most recent Vehicle Health Index, the most common types include replacing faulty oxygen sensors, swapping out ignition coils and spark plugs and inspecting fuel caps. Caps may simply not be snug enough.

So, how do you prevent repair issues from occurring? It’s impossible to predict when or how they’ll occur, but you can reduce the chances by following a maintenance schedule, White advised. By having your vehicle serviced on an ongoing basis – such as every few months or prior to annual road trips – you reduce the likelihood of them popping up. When they do happen, they tend to be less problematic.

“Following a recommended maintenance schedule and addressing small problems before they become bigger ones will help extend the life of your car and minimize check engine related repairs,” White added.

This same principle applies to your auto insurance. It’s natural to have a “set it and forget it” mentality, where after securing car coverage, you leave it alone until you need to make a claim or renew your policy. But if you’re someone who drives a lot or leases, you may encounter changes that require you to implement some updates.

Let PayneWest Insurance serve as your check auto insurance policy reminder to get your coverage back up to speed.