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Top 10 Most Expensive Check Engine Light Repairs

BY: Andrew Giorgi
Check engine light illuminated on a car's dashboard

The check engine warning light flashes up on your dashboard – it’s the last thing you want to see since you never really know what’s wrong. Luckily for you, there are ways to know what this warning light means and how to handle your next steps. Checking out the common check engine light triggers, which are outlined in your owner’s manual, can let you know whether or not a bigger issue is on the horizon. 

The average repair cost for most check engine light-related breakdowns is about $3,285, and unless you have current coverage, this can keep you off the road for long periods. Feel empowered the next time this warning light comes on by learning about the top 10 most expensive check engine light repairs drivers experience yearly and the estimated cost for each. 

Top 10 Most Expensive Check Engine Light Repairs Chart

What Does Your Check Engine Light Mean?

The check engine light, which sometimes shows as check engine or the International Check Engine Symbol, is a signal from your vehicle’s engine computer that something is wrong. In some cars, the light can display yellow or red to indicate a more severe problem requiring immediate attention.

Your vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system, part of the onboard computer present on virtually all vehicles manufactured in the last 40 years, illuminates the check engine light on the dashboard when a problem is detected and saves a diagnostic code to identify the source of the issue. The light won’t alert you to the specifics of the problem, but a diagnostic code is saved that you can scan to find out the issue. 

How Can You Access the Check Engine Diagnostic Code?

You can read the diagnostic code by using an electronic scanner. Mechanics use these but typically charge around $90 for a diagnosis. You can get your own tool to scan the code yourself if you want to save time and money, but certified mechanics can provide more insights into what’s wrong. 

You can also save up to $45 towards one handheld computer engine diagnostic exam and other maintenance expenses with Endurance’s Advantage plan. The Advantage auto protection plan includes routine maintenance and breakdown coverage all in one. It’s easy to use in 3 simple steps:

  1. Visit your local licensed mechanic to perform maintenance.
  2. Show proof of your Endurance coverage.
  3. We take care of the rest by reimbursing the repair shop or you for the cost of the covered work.

Top 10 Check Engine Light Car Repairs by Cost

Many things can trigger the check engine light, and not all imply a costly repair. Issues can range from something as simple as a loose fuel cap, misfiring spark plugs, or issues with the catalytic converter, to something more serious such as transmission or battery failure. 

That doesn’t mean this should go unnoticed. Frequently, this warning light can warn you of an upcoming repair that can be costly – over $3,000, to be exact. Breakdowns happen all the time, but here are the top 10 most expensive repairs according to the 2020 edition of the CarMD Vehicle Health Index report:

  1. Hybrid inverter assembly: $4,100
  2. Transmission replacement: $3,800
  3. Transmission assembly: $3,644
  4. Cylinder head assembly: $3,575
  5. Transfer case shift motor: $3,272
  6. Gas mass sensor: $3,043
  7. Supercharger: $3,020
  8. Hybrid battery: $3,000
  9. Transfer case and torque converter: $2,900
  10. Fuel injection pump: $2,500

Other less expensive but common replacements include mass airflow sensors, ignition coils, evaporative emissions purge (EVAP) control valves, fuel injectors, faulty oxygen sensors (O2 sensors), and more. With some of these costs potentially surpassing the vehicle’s value, the best thing you can do is get your car checked by a certified mechanic to avoid serious problems impacting your vehicle. 

Investing in an extended car warranty can also help alleviate the financial burden of owning a vehicle by covering maintenance and costly repairs. Breakdown protection providers, like Endurance, pay the mechanic directly for both parts and labor—leaving more time to relax and less time at the shop. 

If you’re unsure which coverage is right for you, check out current coverage plans to see which meet your needs and budget. 

What Should You Do If the Check Engine Light Comes On?

There’s no need to panic, and you don’t usually need to pull over immediately unless there are obvious signs the vehicle has a severe issue, like overheating, fumes, and clunks. If you notice these things, pull over, turn off the engine, and contact your roadside assistance provider

Otherwise, you can continue your journey, but you should arrange to get your vehicle checked as soon as possible. The mechanic will read the error code and inspect the part of the engine flagged. 

It’s always worth trying to rule out a few possibilities first, though, so you can do the following before taking it to an auto repair shop: tighten the fuel cap, check you’re not low on oil and other fluids, and then see if the light is still displaying.

If the light is showing, you don’t want to ignore it and keep using the vehicle, as it could exacerbate the problem and cause new ones, ultimately meaning more damage and more cost to you. 

Maintain Your Engine with These 5 Car Maintenance Tips

The best way to avoid common repairs is by performing ongoing maintenance throughout the year. Here are some to-do’s to check off this season:

  1. Regularly change your oil. The engine oil keeps all moving parts and hoses lubricated to keep wear and tear at a minimum. Oil traps dust, dirt, and sediments that run through your vehicle. Get an oil change throughout the year.
  2. Check your cooling system. – Your vehicle requires a certain amount of coolant for proper heat dissipation. Having a low amount can result in overheating and a potential breakdown.
  3. Replace dirty air filters. – Constricted airflow causes fuel to not burn completely, which results in reduced gas mileage, lower fuel economy, and increased emissions. Your car’s engine needs to breathe properly to function well throughout the year.
  4. Replace the fuel filter. – Checking the fuel filter can ensure clean fuel goes to the fuel pump and engine and reduces build-up inside the engine.
  5. Avoid driving with low gas. – Driving when the low fuel warning light turns on can result in sediment and junk reaching your engine, which causes premature damage. Also, ensure the gas cap is tightened to prevent your check engine light from turning on.

Avoid Paying Thousands in Repair and Maintenance Costs

Looking after your car requires two things. First, regular essential maintenance is recommended in your vehicle owner’s manual. Secondly, there are the repairs that can become necessary at any point, particularly when the vehicle gets older and has more miles on the clock. If the check engine light illuminates your dashboard, you can prepare.

The best way to protect yourself against the cost of the top check engine problems is by investing in an extended auto warranty or auto protection plan. If the vehicle’s manufacturer warranty has run out, then take a look at Endurance Warranty coverage – it’s the most comprehensive package you can get on the market. 

Choose from a selection of plans designed to meet the needs of drivers with different needs and budgets. With every coverage plan, you get 24/7 roadside assistance, trip interruption coverage, and substitute transportation while your vehicle’s in the repair shop.

Plus, on top of the coverage with the plan, you get a FREE year of Endurance Elite Benefits, which gives you access to a host of other everyday driver benefits. Get valuable services in case you run into problems with your vehicle, like complete tire coverage, key fob replacement, and more. Get started today by requesting a free, no-obligation quote. Learn more about check engine repairs, car and SUV extended warranties, and how-to articles on the Endurance blog.

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