What Is Your ‘Check Engine’ Light Telling You?
The Car Care Council reports that one out of 15 vehicles inspected at its National Car Care Month Vehicle Check-Up Events had its “check engine” light illuminated.
This light is one of the most vital components to a properly functioning vehicle. It alerts the driver to a variety of potential problems based on the vehicle’s on-board diagnostic system.
When the check engine light comes on, it means that a system in your vehicle – such as ignition, fuel injection or emission control – is not operating at peak performance, even if your vehicle appears to be running normally.
A glowing check engine light doesn’t mean you must immediately pull over to the side of the road, but you should get the car checked out as soon as possible. Ignoring the warning light could severely damage engine components and incur additional repair expenses.
If your check engine light comes on, first check the gas cap to make sure it wasn’t left loose after refueling. Sometimes this can trigger the light. If the cap was loose, the light should go out after a few short trips.
If the light remains on, have the system checked out as soon as possible. A light that flashes indicates a more severe condition that should be checked out immediately to prevent damage to the catalytic converter. When you experience a flashing light, minimize driving at high speeds or under heavy loads.
When scheduling service, make sure the automotive shop that diagnoses your car has professional technicians who are properly certified for OBD II (on-board diagnostic systems) diagnosis and repair. The technician will connect your vehicle’s computer to a diagnostic computer, which will provide a “trouble” code indicating why the light was activated.
While the diagnostic computer is connected to your car, the technician can check the idle speed, throttle response, engine temperature, fuel system pressure, manifold vacuum, exhaust emission levels and many other key indicators.
Once the problem is diagnosed and fixed, your car’s computer makes sure everything is back to normal, then turns off the check engine light.
The Car Care Council recommends reading your vehicle owner’s manual and familiarizing yourself with the purpose of the check engine light and every other gauge and warning indicator on your dashboard.
The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign, promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair.