When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

 

There seem to be two main viewpoints when it comes to a vehicle's check engine light coming on. For owners of older cars, it may be taken as a meaningless annoyance, regularly coming on for some minor reason or another. For those with newer vehicles, it can be met with fear and trembling. "What does this mean?" "How much will it cost?" "Is my car unsafe to drive?" "Will my engine unexpectedly expire if I don't go straight to an auto repair shop?"

Relax - a little. While the yellow warning light has come on for a reason, it's likely not the imminent explosion of your new car. Unfortunately, because it monitors so many functions and can be triggered by any number of large or small problems, its warning is quite vague. To discover exactly what issue the warning is about, you'll need to visit an auto repair shop that performs check engine light diagnostics. In the meantime, here are some tips to keep you from abandoning ship for something as simple as a loose gas cap (the first thing to check!), without ignoring what could be a significant problem.

There's No Need to Panic

When the check engine light comes on, it's usually not a warning of imminent damage that renders your vehicle unsafe to drive. It just means that some sensor has been triggered by an abnormality, and unless your vehicle is exhibiting unnerving or noticeably irregular behavior, like shaking or strange noises or overheating (always check your instrument panel gauges when the warning light comes on), you're very probably safe to keep driving. Just be sure to have the car looked at by an auto mechanic as soon as you're able.

But Don't Ignore It!

Some people joke about 'fixing' the check engine light by unplugging it. As annoying as it can be, unplugging it isn't a joking matter. The light indicates some component of your vehicle is not acting the way it's supposed to, and if you ignore the warning, you're putting your car at risk of sustaining damage. The light may have been triggered by a problem as simple as a loose gas cap (always the first thing to check), or as complicated as a failing catalytic converter. Ignoring the problem won't make it stop, but can allow it to get much worse, so you need to identify and correct the issue as soon as possible. Note: If the light turns off after a while, it doesn't mean there's no longer an issue. Some check engine lights are programmed to reset after a few days, but will show again when the problem triggers the sensor again.

If the Check Engine Light is Flashing, You Should Stop Driving!

Many newer automakers have programmed the check engine light to flash on and off if a really serious, immediate or possibly damaging issue is sensed. If your check engine light is flashing, park the car in a safe place ASAP and call a local auto repair shop that offers towing service. Don't risk damage by trying to drive home.

For fully certified auto technicians who can perform check engine light diagnostics to let you know what's troubling your vehicle, what needs to be done to fix it and how much it will cost, Inland Sales and Service in the Airway Heights area of Spokane can be reached at 509-202-4025.


Reid's Blog

Written By Brian Corey

Published By MORBiZ




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