Warning Lights Tell of Cheap and, Sometimes, Expensive Repairs

By Colin Bird  on April 26, 2011

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As automobiles become more reliable over time — the average vehicle lifespan is now 10.6 years – minor vehicular problems, when left unchecked, are increasingly causing more expensive or “catastrophic” repairs down-the-line, according to CarMD, a provider of diagnostic tools and information.

The “check engine” light is the canary in the coal mine, indicating often cheap-to-fix problems; however, there are some common expensive fixes, too, according to USA Today.

The most common issues pertain to engine misfires, fuel injection and sensor control problems:

  • Replace oxygen sensor: 9.3% 
  • Inspect for loose fuel cap: 9.3% 
  • Replace catalytic converter: 6.4% 
  • Replace mass air flow sensor: 4.4% 
  • Replace spark plugs or wires: 3.7% 

The most-expensive repairs above would be replacing the catalytic converter, which often costs $2,000, according to CarMD. Catalytic problems often arise when owners ignore the check engine light for earlier minor problems such as replacing a spark plug or spark plug wire for only a few dollars.

As some of the earlier hybrids reach a decade’s worth of use, two of the most-expensive top 10 repairs are now for hybrid models, including replacing the battery or the hybrid inverter system, according to USA Today.

Common 'check engine' repairs come cheap and costly (USA Today)

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