If your check engine light comes on, you may start to feel very worried. Maintaining your vehicle is important and dealing with warning lights is an essential part of that. So, many drivers are understandably concerned that a check engine light could mean a repair bill. This often leads to the question of whether it can come on for no reason or not.
Is a Check Engine Light Always Bad?
First, it is important to note that the check engine light is only illuminated when the vehicle’s computer detects a problem. On some rare occasions, a problem with the light itself may cause it to illuminate. However, this is very uncommon and needs to be addressed (otherwise you wouldn’t know when there is a deeper problem).
However, some trouble codes set by the computer are relatively mild. For example, it can illuminate because the fuel cap is loose. Of course, some reasons for the check engine light are far more serious such as cylinder misfires or faults with the catalytic converter (which can be expensive).
It is a good idea to pull over and briefly inspect your vehicle. This will help you to avoid making a small problem worse.
5 Safety Checks When Seeing Check Engine Light
If the check engine light turns on, pull over and check out your vehicle before continuing. You don’t need to panic. Just come to a gentle stop in a safe place and be smart.
- Light: First, observe whether the check engine light is flashing or consistently on. The former typically indicates more serious problems that may require a tow truck.
- Listen: Is your vehicle making any weird noises? Listen for grinding, pinging, screeching, or any other unusual noises.
- Look: Check your vehicle carefully to see if there is anything that seems unusual. Also, look for smoke or leaking fluids.
- Feel: Does the vehicle jolt or vibrate excessively when you drive? If you’ve noticed any changes in feel from the normal, consider a tow.
- Remember: Did you fill the gas recently? If so, check that the fuel cap is on properly.
Common Check Engine Light Reasons
The check engine light will only illuminate because of a problem with the powertrain or emissions. So, it will never mean something simple like needing a windshield wiper replacement. These are some common problems:
- A loose fuel cap (could be on wrong or damaged)
- Malfunctioning oxygen sensor
- Ignition system issues
- Fault catalytic converter
- Mass airflow sensor malfunction
In many cases, you can simply drive to the mechanic. However, if you think the problem is serious, consider calling a tow truck. Also, don’t wait to get the problem fixed. It will only get worse if you ignore it.
Deal With Your Check Engine Light
Dealing with your check engine light is easier if you check the OBD-II trouble codes. You can do this at a store like AutoZone or by buying your own reader (simpler models are quite affordable). While you’re at it, also pick up a service manual to help with everything from replacing the exhaust headers to finding the right windshield wipers size.