The "Check Engine" Light And What You Should Do

Regardless of whether you are miles from home or sitting in your driveway, one of the worst things to experience is the "check engine" light. The light could be an indication of a simple problem or something more complex. Instead of panicking and immediately calling for an emergency tow, take some time to explore the meaning of the light and auto diagnostic checks:

What Is the "Check Engine" Light?

Of course you know the yellow light flashing on your dashboard demands you "check engine," but what does it really mean? The check engine light is not necessarily a sign that your engine is in trouble.

The light is used to monitor the overall performance of your car. Whenever a problem occurs and continues to happen, the "check engine" light is triggered. For instance, if one of the sensors responsible for monitoring your car's performance is faulty or appears to be sending bad signals, the light will appear.

The light is part of the on-board diagnostics system. When there is an issue, not only is the light triggered, but a code is generated. A mechanic can use the code to pinpoint the issue that is going on with your car.

What Can You Do?

One of the first steps you can take when the "check engine" light appears is to review your owner's manual. The manual can explain the possible reasons the light is activated. Some manuals even walk you through the steps of determining if the light was a fluke or if there is a real cause for concern.

Sometimes, the light will flash intermittently. In some instances, it will remain on with flashing. Regardless of how the light is activated, it is important that you take your car in to have a professional diagnostic check performed. The mechanic can investigate the source of the "check engine" light and also ensure that other areas of your car are running efficiently.

It is important to note that your car is equipped with a range of warnings that can alert you of problems. In some instances, those alerts will sound before the "check engine" light. If they have not, the problem might be something as simple as a gas cap that needs to be tightened.

Ignoring the light is never an option. Failing to take the light seriously could result in more serious consequences down the road. A quick diagnostic check by your mechanic can lead to a diagnosis and repair.