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10 Ways You're Killing Your Car

Tickers in this article: NOTE

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- If your "check engine" light could talk, it would hurl obscenities at you for ignoring it when it's only trying to help you out.

Your "check engine" light is your car's means of sitting you down for an intervention. It's trying to tell you that something's wrong and that you need to take action before it gets worse. Stop being afraid, suck it up and seek some help now before things get out of hand.

But you're not going to do that, are you? You're just going to hope that little LED bulb burns itself out so you can go about your business. Because how bad could it really be? You'd hear something, right? Then you could search "car banging noise" on YouTube and watch an instructional video on how to fix it yourself. You don't need a certified mechanic or an automaker's warning light telling you what to do. You're an independent, capable human being who just needs to get through this last commute and clear off some time on the weekend schedule for repairs.

Yeah, this is how car repairs increased for the second year in a row. According to car repair data site CarMD, repairs increased 6.7% overall last year, including a 13% uptick in labor costs and 3% increase in parts costs. In the Northeast and Midwest, where hardy folk who brave the cold regularly should know better, plummeting temperatures brought a 9% increase in average car repair costs last year.

CarMD just released its Vehicle Health Index and looked at what some of the most common "check engine" light repairs were in 2013. The sad fact is that most expensive common repairs could have been prevented by simple, inexpensive, routine maintenance. But since everybody's an expert, here are the problems that all of you self-certified mechanics failed to diagnose within the past year:

10. "Inspect For Faulty Vacuum Hose and Replace As Necessary"
Average repair costs:
Percentage of all "check engine light" repairs: 2.22%
Change in repair cost from a year ago: +14.1%

The hoses connect to the intake manifold and vacuum the extra air from parts of the engine. Vacuum hoses heat up when the engine is running. When they heat, they can crack and leak. This lets excess air get into the engine and can cause engine hesitation, stalling and rough idling, plus damage to the oxygen sensor and eventually the engine itself.

While it's true  a mechanic will charge an average $122 to fix such an issue, you can make that same fix yourself for as little as $5.

9. "Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve and Clean All EGR Ports"
Average repair costs: $351.97
Percentage of all "check engine light" repairs: 2.32%
Change in repair cost from a year ago: +7.9%

EGR helps your car run more efficiently and helps control emissions. The EGR valve recirculates a portion of the exhaust back through the combustion process, lowering the combustion temperature and the formation of nitrous oxide emissions. A faulty EGR valve or blocked EGR passage can cause rough idling, engine hesitation, misfire and poor fuel economy.

Basically, it can end up costing you whether it stays in or it comes out. It's one of the more expensive fixes on this list, but it beats losing a big chunk of your performance and gas money to a valve.