5 Signs Your Engine Is Losing Power


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Hey, Look at All the Pretty Lights ...
That ominous light could be pointing to a power loss problem. Hemera/Thinkstock

A number of the power loss-related problems we just listed will cause your malfunction indicator lamp, aka the check engine light, to switch on. Heed it. Many of the issues it detects relate to power loss -- including problems with the catalytic converter, the mass airflow sensor, the O2 sensor or the spark plug wires. More important, small problems often hint at larger ones [sources: Consumer Reports; Reed].

In addition to the glitches already cited, your car's MIL could point to a bad positive crankcase ventilation valve. The PCV valve is part of your emissions control system. When it sticks open, too much air pours into your engine; when contaminants gum it up, your engine suffocates. Fortunately, the valve is fairly easy to clean or replace [source: Sclar].

If you're working on a 1996 model vehicle or later, you can buy a cheap trouble code reader that will tell you what the MIL means, possibly saving you a trip to the mechanic -- or at least arming you with more data before you haul in your vehicle [sources: Consumer Reports; Reed].

Lastly, if none of these five signs are occurring for you but you're certain you're losing power, check your catalytic converter. Although most converters are designed to last a vehicle's lifetime, they can eventually fail or plug up, suffocating the engine by preventing fouled air from being expelled through the exhaust [sources: Salem; Sclar].

Author's Note: 5 Signs Your Engine Is Losing Power

Power loss in a car is a dismal experience. For the sentimental, it feels like a trusty horse or boon companion is knocking at death's door; for everyone else, it produces a pang in the pocketbook -- at least until it's diagnosed.

That's the thing about power loss: It could point to some minor, easily fixed issue, or it could stem from a real whopper of a problem. Hopefully, the information in this article will help you separate one from the other.

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Sources

  • AGCO Auto Parts. "What are the Symptoms of a Bad Fuel Filter, In-line and In-tank?" http://www.agcoauto.com/content/news/p2_articleid/219
  • B&B Electronics Manufacturing Company, Inc. "Diagnosing Misfires." http://www.autotap.com/techlibrary/diagnosing_misfires.asp
  • Big O Tires. "Fuel Filter Change." http://www.bigotires.com/service-detail/fuel-filter-change
  • Bosch Auto Parts. "Spark Plug Faces." http://www.boschautoparts.com/BAP_Technical_Resources%2FSpark%20Plugs%2FSparkPlugFaces.pdf
  • Consumer Reports. "What to Do if the 'Check Engine' Light Goes On." February 2013. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/12/what-to-do-if-the-check-engine-light-goes-on/index.htm
  • Goms, Gary. "Tech Feature: Lack of Power Leads to Exhaust Restriction Analysis." April 13, 2010. http://www.underhoodservice.com/issue/article.aspx?contentid=72739
  • Newman, Bruce. "Clearing the Air in the Land of Smog." The New York Times. May 20, 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/19990520thursday.html
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts. "Possible Causes of Engine Misfires." Nov. 23, 2011. http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/app/newsfeed/detail?article=800649141
  • Reed, Philip. "What Your Check Engine Light is Telling You." May 31, 2011. http://www.edmunds.com/car-care/what-your-check-engine-light-is-telling-you.html
  • Salem, Mark. "My Car Dies, Stalls or Loses Power While I'm Driving." http://www.salemboysauto.com/original-faqs/faq-51.htm
  • Saulny, Susan. "Thieves Leave Cars, but Take Catalytic Converters." The New York Times. March 29, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/29/us/29converters.html
  • Sclar, Deanna. "How to Change a Vehicle's PCV Valve." Auto Repair for Dummies. 2nd Edition. 2008. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/home-garden/automobiles/The-Fuel-System.html
  • Sclar, Deanna. "How to Diagnose Vehicle Fuel Problems." Auto Repair for Dummies. 2nd Edition. 2008. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-diagnose-vehicle-fuel-problems.html
  • Sclar, Deanna. "How to Troubleshoot Catalytic Converters." Auto Repair for Dummies. 2nd Edition. 2008. http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-troubleshoot-catalytic-converters.html

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