Among the many causes for a check engine light to come on, a loose gas cap is among them.
Consequently, the most common cause of a check engine light coming on, is a loose gas cap.
The “click” feature of a modern gas cap indicates when it’s tight, and prevents over-tightening and damage.
A loose gas cap can do more damage than you think, and is often overlooked.
Today’s gas cap features a ratcheting mechanism to ensure the right seal. This 1/8th turn design is there, to alert the driver that the cap is installed correctly. Because of this, if it doesn’t click, it is not on tight.
Loose Gas Cap Warning Signs:
Broken Gas Cap
Struggling to tighten your gas cap is a common sign of a broken gas cap. Often, gas caps are made so that they will click once to indicate they are tightened. If you do not hear a clicking noise despite tightening the cap as usual; or if you hear a click but the cap pops back loose; you may need to replace your gas cap.
Smell of Gasoline
Damage or wear and tear to the gas cap may cause vapors from the gas tank to leak; resulting in the inside of your vehicle smelling like gasoline.
Check Engine Light
The most common reason for a check engine light is a loose gas cap. Since the check engine light comes on for many reasons, it is best to scan the vehicle for trouble codes. If your check engine light is on, you cannot pass an emissions test.
Evaporative Emission Control System (EVAP) Self Test
Modern vehicles have an automotive diagnostic system known as OBD-II (on-board diagnostics). This system monitors a number of engine and emissions-related components, to ensure that everything is in working order. The (EVAP) can detect fuel vapor leaks, that allow gasoline fumes to escape from the gas tank and EVAP system.
The (EVAP) monitor runs a self-test that checks the integrity of the system to make sure there are no leaks. If the fuel tank and (EVAP) system fail to hold pressure during the test, it indicates a leak.
(EVAP) Leaks Are Usually Described As A ( Large Leak ) Or ( Small Leak )
- A large leak such as that caused by a loose or missing gas cap; will set either a code P0455 ( Large Leak ) or a code P0457 ( Loose Gas Cap ).
- Small pinhole-sized leaks will set a different code: P0456 ( Small Leak ).
If your check engine light is on, and your vehicle seems to be running normally; and there are no other warning lights on, the problem might just be a loose gas cap.
NOTE: The check engine light will NOT come on immediately following a fill up. Even if you forgot to put the gas cap back on or did not get the cap fully tightened. The check engine light will not come on until the OBD-II system runs its (EVAP) leak self-test.
The (EVAP) leak self-test only runs under certain circumstances. The fuel tank must be 15 to 85 percent full (not near empty and not completely full). The outside temperature must not be too cold (less than 0 degrees F) or too hot (over 90 degrees F). And the vehicle has to have been sitting overnight before the (EVAP) leak self-test will run.
Remember, the (EVAP) leak self-test does not repeat on every drive cycle. It may take a few days before the (EVAP) leak self-check will run. If no leaks are found, the check engine light should go out. However, if the check engine light remains on, the cause may be something else; that will require further diagnosis with a scan tool.
So, if you think your gas cap is loose, it is important that you have it inspected by a professional; to determine if you should replace the gas cap. Finally, while the smell of gas may be unpleasant, a loose case cap can have costly consequences if not addressed.
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