We may not always know what it means, but most of us understand there is a problem when the check engine signal lights up our dash. Newer models may give you a summary of the issue or at least an error code you can look up, but older vehicles often leave it up to professional investigation. Every modern vehicle comes standard with a wide range of warning signals that let us know when we may be experiencing an issue under the hood or in one of the car’s other systems. Sometimes a warning light is our only notice of an issue that we can’t hear or feel when operating the vehicle. The most notorious of these signals is the check engine light (CEL), which can point to a wide variety of issues.
How Serious Is It?
The sudden pop-up of a check engine light can be overwhelming. With such a vague warning, you’re left with no understanding of how serious the situation is or how quickly your vehicle needs servicing. In many instances, the situation isn’t dire, and your vehicle can continue to operate more or less normally until you have it seen by a qualified mechanic.
With that said, you should always err on the side of caution when it comes to a check engine light suddenly appearing. In general, if the light remains on but your vehicle seems to be functioning as usual, you can continue on to your destination and then call your mechanic to schedule a service appointment. If the check engine light is flashing, however, you should consider pulling over immediately and avoid driving any further until the issue can be properly assessed. Flashing check engine lights in most vehicles indicate a serious issue that could pose a risk for severe damage if you continue to operate your car.
What Causes a Check Engine Light to Come On
- Failed or Faulty Oxygen Sensor – This sensor measures unburned oxygen in your exhaust system and is a common cause of a check engine light coming on. A faulty oxygen sensor will cause you to burn more fuel than necessary, but if it’s the only issue you should be able to continue using your vehicle until it can be serviced.
- Loose, Damaged, or Missing Gas Cap – If you don’t tighten your gas cap, your CEL might come on within moments of starting the vehicle or once you’ve started driving. This is meant to warn you that you are losing fuel quickly through evaporation. This can cause your recirculating system to function improperly.
- Catalytic Converter – Your catalytic converter is responsible for converting carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. Issues with the catalytic converter are often warning signs of a larger problem since these devices rarely fail on their own. A nonfunctional catalytic converter can reduce your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy, as well as cause you to fail an emissions test.
Let Us Inspect Your Vehicle
Whenever your check engine light comes on, it is important to have your vehicle inspected by a qualified auto mechanic. This ensures that you can get the service you need before the problem gets worse and leads to more expensive repairs. Contact Ken Scales Automotive to schedule your service today.