How Scared Do You Get When “Check Engine” Lights Up?
You’re driving along the highway on your way to an important meeting or a fun event. You check your speed and you see the one thing you never want to see – the “Check Engine” light. Your first thoughts are typical “Oh no! What’s wrong now?” Then, your thoughts may drift to how much danger you’re in and how much it’s going to cost.
Maybe that’s not exactly how you react, but if it’s ever happened to you, you can likely relate to some part of that scenario. But the good news is that you need not panic or automatically assume you’re in immediate danger. Granted, it’s possible that you are, but it’s also possible that you aren’t.
Keep in mind, check engine lights and their specific warnings differ a bit from vehicle to vehicle. This article addresses the most common aspects most of them share. Also, the check engine light is different from the service light or maintenance light. These are the lights that alert you when a standard service – like an oil change – is due.
Here is what happens when the Check Engine light comes on.
When you see this light come on, instead, remind yourself of the following reason why it has come on. That way, you’ll be more prepared and relaxed to respond to it rather than be afraid of it.
When your check engine light comes on, it’s your car’s computer alerting you that there is some kind of problem that might affect or is in process of affecting the emission control system in your car.
The light can come on for the following common maintenance related issues: a bad oxygen sensor; fouled or failed spark plugs; faulty catalytic converter; loose gas cap; a bad mass airflow sensor.
Here is what to do when the Check Engine light comes on.
Notice when it comes on and if it stays on or flicks on and off. If it comes on while you’re driving through your city on your way to the expressway, then comes off once you are on the expressway, the issue is related solely to city driving situations. Notice if your car is performing any differently as the light comes on and off. If you do notice a fluctuation in driving performance, get your car to a mechanic as immediately as you can.
If it comes on and remains on even as you’re driving in different conditions, but performance isn’t affected, then it’s an emission control system fault. This means the emissions system controlling computer will adjust things, so your car only runs in a lower gear or gears. Referred to as “limp home mode”, this situation demands that you get to an auto repair place very soon.
If the light comes on and stays on and your car is performing problematically, a critical component of your emissions control and engine management system is experiencing a grave issue. This can mean your car isn’t safe to drive and that it could stall or completely stop at any time. Pull your car over to a place that is safe and get it towed to a place where it can be inspected.
If the check engine light blinks on and off steadily when you are driving, you have a serious issue. This means the emission control system is experiencing a critical failure and the engine is misfiring so much so that it damages your catalytic converter every time the light blinks on and off. It is commonly the sign that the catalytic converter has overheated to such an extent it’s glowing red. In the most severe case, this could start a fire underneath. Get your car towed so it can be diagnosed.
Looking for the Best Auto Mechanics in/near Fraser, Michigan?
Car Guys Auto Center is located at 32639 Groesbeck Hwy., Fraser. Give us a call for all your auto repair needs at 586-285-4444.