What To Do When Your Check Engine Light Comes On


You’re having a great day, driving leisurely through the countryside when all of a sudden your check engine light comes on.


A puzzled look crosses your face followed by frustration and a pinch of anger.


It’s something no one expects, yet we all need to get it taken care of.


But what exactly should you do when you see your check engine light come on? What does it mean?


Some people simply ignore and drive with the light on for months before ever having the problem diagnosed.


Here are steps and information that can help if your check engine light comes on.


What Does It Mean…Scientifically?


We all know that something isn’t quite right with your vehicle if the check engine light is on.


But don’t panic just yet.


The fix may be as simple as a new gas cap.


You see, all vehicles have a computer controlled OBD or Onboard Diagnostic System. This system checks all the various parts of your vehicle to make sure it’s running properly.


The system checks engine speed, ignition timing and may even be responsible for telling your transmission it’s time to shift gears.


So at its most basic level, the check engine light comes on when the electronic control system can’t correct a problem it’s found.


Now that’s pretty general, but your car is essentially telling you it needs helping fixing something.


Taking The First Step


While fear and panic may set it, take a breath.


Seeing the check engine light come on, does NOT mean you need to immediately pull over and call a tow truck.


Like we mentioned earlier, this could be an extremely minor issue like replacing the gas cap.


On the other hand, however, it is possible that it can be something more serious as well.


The best thing to do is bring it a dealership that can run a diagnostic test.


A computer can be connected to your car which will read the error code created by the OBD system. This code guides the dealership or repair center as to what and where the problem. A faulty oxygen sensor or an emissions leak could be two possible issues.


Keep it simple at this point. Get your vehicle checked, find out what code the system is sending and see what kind of repairs are necessary.


Extra Tips


There are some important pieces of information that can give you clues as to your next steps.


First, is the light flashing or red?


If so, this indicates a more serious problem. When the check engine light is red, a serious problem needs attention. You need to get your vehicle to service department as quickly as possible.


A non-flashing, constant check engine light display typically signifies a minor problem.


While that’s a good thing, don’t wait to have it checked. When you wait too long there is a good chance that additional damage is occurring. More damage usually means more costly repairs.


Also, if you are driving when the check engine light comes on, slow down. You want to reduce the amount of stress placed on your vehicle.


Finally, the first chance you get, check your gas cap. It’s a common culprit. Simply remove it and refasten it making sure you have a tight seal.


It’s never fun seeing a check engine light come on, but try to stay calm. Know that you’ll need to have your car serviced, but remember that the repair may be very minor.