At some time or another many of us will have our check engine light (CEL) illuminate on the dashboard. This indication is a somewhat common occurrence with many vehicles and more commonly than not, it is not a serious problem. This light is, however, part of a built-in computerized diagnostic system, so it would never be a good idea to just ignore the light. In most cases, though, it does not necessarily mean that you have to pull over to the side of the road and immediately shut off your vehicle.
It is important to not confuse the check engine light with the maintenance required light or the service required light as these two lights have different meanings than the check engine light. The maintenance required or service required light typically will illuminate at a given mileage to let you know that vehicle service is needed. These lights are referring to a non-imperative service requirement like a tune-up.
Common reasons the Check Engine Light comes on
There are several reasons for that, but to have a better understanding of what may have caused the light to come on, it is significant to know what year your vehicle was built. If your vehicle was built before 1996 and your check engine light comes on it might mean that there was a failure somewhere in the vehicle’s Electronic Engine Control System. If there are any actuators, solenoids, or electronic sensors not functioning properly, you’re going to see the check engine light.
Starting in 1996, the U.S. government required all vehicles to have more strict exhaust emissions guidelines. This is when the Check engine light began not only monitoring the electronic sensors, solenoids, and actuators, but also vehicles’ emissions. This system is known as the emissions control system.
What to do
The best idea is to go to a mechanic and get the vehicle looked at by a professional. But we want to give you some advice so that you have a heads-up as to what is going on. The fact of the matter is that the Check EngineKar light may very well result in a necessary visit to the local mechanic.
Here are a few helpful hints to keep you informed:
- Try looking for the more obvious warning signs, as it is possible that the check engine light is on for a serious reason, and is telling you this. Two very serious visible warnings to look for are whether or not the light is red versus yellow (where a red check engine light means you should not be driving the vehicle at all) and if the light is blinking versus staying solid. It is recommended that a tow truck transport the vehicle to a mechanic’s shop. The main reason the light comes on in one of these fashions is that there was a malfunction in the vehicle’s emission control system.
- If the Check Engine Light comes on and stays on, but is not blinking or red, then take the obvious steps. Listen to the engine, both while it’s idling and also when you accelerate. Does it make any weird noises or have any performance issues? Either way, this means there is a failure somewhere in the emissions control system. As long as the vehicle doesn’t have any performance issues, it is recommended the vehicle be taken in and serviced as soon as possible. Please note that if the vehicle does have performance issues or is not idling properly it should not be driven at all. If the vehicle is your only means of transportation and must be driven, it is recommended that it be driven as little as possible.
- Finally, check your gas cap. If it’s not tightened, (until the cap clicks 3 times) then tighten it and try turning the car off and back on again, as this may help reset the light. In some cases, it may even take a couple of short rides to get the light to reset.
How Urgent is the Check Engine Light?
There are several reasons why a Check Engine Light may come on. Whether it’s something as minor as a loose gas cap or something more serious, it should be checked out and fixed.
Let’s look at the urgency levels in more detail…
Flashing Check Engine Light
The rule of thumb is that if the check engine light is flashing, you can’t keep driving the car. It’s an emergency. Often it indicates an engine misfire.
If you keep driving, you will likely cause irreversible damage, mostly to the (expensive) catalytic converter.
Don’t risk that expense – have your car towed to a certified mechanic for repair.
Steady Check Engine Light
It’s okay to drive the car if the check engine light is steady. But only if the vehicle’s essential systems such as brakes and lights are operational.
Keep a close eye on your car’s dashboard warning lights, including the coolant temperature and oil pressure.
You can also use an OBD2 Reader such as GOFAR to erase the fault codes and reset the check engine light.
Warning: Do not ignore the issue if it is serious. Take your car as soon as possible to Kwik kar of Lewisville Oil change for proper diagnosis and repair.
Can the Engine Light Go Off On Its Own?
Until the cause of the Check Engine Light coming on is addressed, it will remain on.
Once the error codes from your vehicle’s computer are addressed and cleared from its memory, the Check Engine Light will go off.
The next time your Check Engine Light appears, we invite you to schedule an appointment online, call us, or drop by for a visit at 1299 JUSTIN ROAD (F.M.407) LEWISVILLE, TX 75077. We’re a shop with a conscience, and we’d love to serve you