Why is your check engine light on?

October 18 2018

Seeing the check engine light flash on while you're driving can be alarming. But is it a cause for panic? The warning light doesn't come with an explanation, so how do you figure out the problem and what should you do about it? 


What types of issues can trigger the check engine light?

Not to be confused with the service light, a reminder of routine maintenance, the check engine light is part of your vehicle's onboard diagnostic system and can be triggered by anything from a sensor malfunction to a serious engine problem.  


How do you know if the problem is serious?

If the light stays on, there shouldn't be an immediate problem. In newer vehicles the computer may adjust to compensate for the problem, however, possibly reducing your miles per gallon and increasing carbon emissions. A blinking light indicates an urgent malfunction -- one that could cause damage in the near future.


What should you do if the light comes on?

Err on the side of caution if the light is blinking: Park the vehicle in the first safe location and have it towed so you can get a diagnosis. If the light isn't blinking, check your gauges for the source of the issue. You can try tightening your gas cap if the gauges look okay.  


Still can't figure out what's wrong? Most modern cars will provide a "trouble code" when the light comes on. With the right tools you can attempt to read this code yourself, or you can get a diagnostic check done. Whatever you do, don't let the issue go unchecked for long. Over time, even a smaller problem can lead to major damage and costly repairs. 


If you need help reading a trouble code or scheduling an appointment for the necessary repairs, feel free to get in touch.


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