If you are a Gen-Z or Millennial reading this article, there was a time cars did not have the benefit of computer technology under the hood, nor was there any type of Check Engine light on the dashboard to let us know that something needed attention. Typically a motorist would find themselves stranded by the side of the road, all the worse for the wear and unable to call for help because mobile phones were not widely in use. Nowadays, we’ve all got it great. Red and yellow light indicators on our dashboards illuminate to let us know there is an issue with the vehicle and we most likely have a mobile phone at our side. But what exactly does the Check Engine light on mean?
How is Your Check Engine Light Behaving?
First things first. Your Check Engine light can mean quite a number of things, but depending on how it behaves, you can get an idea of the severity of the issue. There are two states of a check engine light; (1) constantly illuminated, and (2) constantly illuminated and flashing. An illuminated and flashing Check Engine Light is indication of a much more serious issue than a permanently illuminated one. Here are a couple of hard and fast rules to remember.
- If your Check Engine light is illuminated and flashing, this means that the issue is urgent and that you may cause serious damage to your vehicle’s systems. When this happens, it’s imperative that you not continue driving the car at any length of time and have an experienced technician have a look at your vehicle right away. A flashing check engine light may indicate an engine mis-fire. If left unchecked by a tech, you may cause irreversible damage to your vehicles exhaust system with a focus on the very expensive catalytic converter.
- If your Check Engine light is illuminated but not flashing, the issue is usually not as urgent. But this isn’t a pass to simply ignore it until you find the time to get around to checking out the issue. Even minor issues, if gone unattended, can cause serious damage to your car. As soon as you get a chance, make an appointment to visit an auto mechanic to diagnose the problem.
So What Exactly Does that Check Engine Light Mean?
Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing exactly what the problem is simply by looking at the light. Unlike your Oil indicator or gas gauge, the Check Engine light could illuminate for a wide variety of reasons. Here are just a few of the possibilities.
- Engine misfire or problems with your catalytic converter.
- A loose gas cap. This is simply remedied by tightening your gas cap, but this doesn’t mean your Check Engine light will turn off automatically. In fact, it may take several days to turn off. If the light is still on after a few days, have a mechanic take a closer look. They may simply need to reset the indicator if they find no other problems.
- Bad or aging spark plug wires.
- Failure in your vehicle’s emission control system.
Always bear in mind that the longer you continue to drive your vehicle after a problem has come to your attention, the higher the bill may end up being when you finally do get it looked at by a professional. For this reason, always pay attention to the warning lights that come on as you’re driving. They’re not just there for decoration – they’re there to ensure you’re aware of issues before they develop into serious problems.
If you have a check engine light illuminated and you need a qualified tech to have a look at it, try Openbay. Openbay is an online marketplace for car repair and service. Simply start on the Openbay homepage, search for “check engine light”, enter your ZIP code and then follow the instruction. You will be presented with a list of curated auto repair centers nearby that can service your vehicle. Make your decision based on location, ratings and reviews and pricing.