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Common Engine Problems and Their Cost.

The cost of car repairs has been on a steady rise for the past few years, making our cars much more expensive to fix. The increased cost of even the most minor problems might cause you to postpone repairs, but doing so is a bad idea. Many people ignore warning lights if the car still seems to drive the way it used to. But if you see a "check engine" light come on and you don’t take care of it immediately you are putting your car at risk.

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So now that you have made an appointment with your mechanic it's time to understand what's wrong with the car. A "check engine" light can be a warning sign for a very large number of different problems, not just with the engine. Here are the 10 most common repairs and the price you will, on average, have to pay for them. It's good information to keep around so you'll know if someone is trying to scam you.

1) Failing oxygen sensor - Average repair: $261

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Oxygen sensor malfunctions have always been one of the most common car problems, mostly caused by internal leaks, burning oil or using gas with a higher ethanol concentration than recommended. A malfunction such as this can result in as much as a 40% drop in fuel economy as the engine won't be able to properly adjust the fuel/oxygen levels.

2) Loose fuel cap - Average repair: 0 to 11 cents 

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In some cars a loose gas cap can trigger the check engine light and make you stress out over a tiny problem. When the fuel cap is loose or missing it allows gas to evaporate from your fuel tank. It only takes 5 seconds to see if tightening the cap makes the warning light disappear or a tiny expense if the cap needs to be replaced.

3) Failing catalytic converter - Average repair: $1,154

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This major problem represented 6.1% of repairs in 2013. The reason you never want to hear it around your car is that this part won't fail unless there is a bigger underlying problem. Even by itself, this is the most expensive repair on the list and the cost continues to rise. The expense is so high because of the precious metals catalytic converters contain.

4) Bad spark plugs and wires - Average repair: $361

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When these items fail they can cause the engine to misfire. You will no doubt hear the engine acting different than usual and see you gas mileage decline. Replacing a spark plug is a very cheap fix but the price goes up once there is damage done to other parts of the system, usually if the problem has been there for some time but was ignored. If you have a basic understanding of car repair, you can ask your mechanic to show you how to do it yourself next time.

5) Malfunctioning mass air flow sensor - Average repair: $423

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Problems with this sensor can result in a 10%-25% reduction in fuel economy. The mass air flow sensor measures the air in the engine and calculates how much fuel to inject. Ignoring this problem will most likely make your engine overheat and sadly the costs of dealing with this common problem are up by 8% in the past years.

6) Faulty ignition coil - Average repair: $250

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Ignition coils can malfunction due to high temperatures and the overall age of the car. An ignition coil failure can affect other systems, including the pricey catalytic converter so it's important to fix it as soon as possible.

7) Faulty ignition coils and spark plugs - Average repair: $420

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These two systems work hand in hand so often a failure in one will also damage the other. If you only came to get one of them fixed but your mechanic says there is a problem with the other as well it's a very likely he is telling the truth. About 3% of all repairs in 2013 were of spark plugs and ignition coils being replaced in the same repair visit.

8) Dead battery and charging system - Average repair: $110

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Modern cars have computers that alert drivers to battery problems as soon as possible. But most cars still won't let you know until you try to start your car and can't. Typically, batteries should be replaced every three years, but extreme temperatures can shorten their life. The average cost of this repair jumped by 10% in 2013. It's always recommended to have a pair of jump-start cables in your car just in case. Your repair man will most likely give you a pair if he has one around.

9) Faulty exhaust gas recirculation valve - Average repair: $352

car repair
 

Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) repairs are up 8% over 2012, making this one of the more pricey common repairs. Cars with an EGR problem can experience misfires, rough idling and engine hesitation. The result can be compromised performance, reduced fuel economy and problems passing emissions tests.

10) Faulty vacuum hose - Average repair: $122

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Much like bad spark plugs, this is also a problem that’s fast and easy to fix but will cost a bit if done by a professional. This is a problem that happens over time and can't really be avoided unless you take really good care of your car. The hoses develop cracks and leaks over time due to repeated heating and cooling. When there's a leak, the system that traps vapors from evaporating gas in the fuel system malfunctions. The "check engine" light will turn on once the car will detect these dangerous fuel vapors in the engine.

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