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Top five car breakdowns

Almost two-thirds of car owners put off automotive maintenance, increasing the chances they will have mechanical breakdowns on the road, according to CarMD.com.

Here's what the automotive repair website says are the most common car problems, according to its database, which uses engine electronic diagnostic reports and other measures to track vehicle failures and repairs.

Replace oxygen sensor: This is the top failure and the most frequent reason for that dreaded "check engine" light to come on. The sensor monitors the amount of unburned oxygen in the exhaust. Failure of what is typically a $20 fan drastically cuts your fuel economy.

Check gas cap: Another culprit behind "check engine" lights is a loose, faulty or cracked gas cap. This also hurts fuel economy by allowing fuel to evaporate, and is an inexpensive repair.

Replace catalytic converter: CarMD says a catalytic converter normally won't fail unless a smaller faulty part, such as a spark plug or an O2 sensor, is ignored for too long.  So if you are maintaining the rest of your vehicle, this shouldn't be a problem. But when it is, it hurts. The repair can cost as much as $2,000. A broken catalytic converter is signaled by a blinking "check engine" light. Pull over and have your car towed if you see that -- before you inflict more damage to your car.

Replace mass air flow sensor: The mass air flow sensor measures the amount of air supplied to your car's engine and determines how much fuel to deliver into the engine. When malfunctioning, it can result in a lack of power, engine hesitation or a surge when accelerating. The repair can run as much as $300. Replacing the $20 air filter periodically will protect your car from this problem.

Replace spark plug: The plugs or wires can go out, once again killing fuel economy and hurting other systems in the vehicle. Spark plugs usually need to be replaced every 30,000 to 40,000 miles.

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-- Jerry Hirsch
Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

 
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