You’re driving down the highway and your check engine light comes on. Your stomach sinks, you begin to worry what’s wrong with your car, and you think about how expensive the repair is going to be. All of these reactions are common for vehicle owners, but educating yourself on what a check engine light means, and how to determine what’s wrong can ease your worries.
What is the check engine light? The “check engine” light or service engine soon light is a part of your car’s onboard diagnostics or OBD system. Your OBD system controls and monitors the health and performance of your vehicle. When the system finds a problem it cannot fix, the computer will turn on the check engine light and store what’s called a trouble code in the system.
What is a trouble code? A trouble code is an alphanumeric value – a code containing both letters and numbers – that corresponds with a problem with your vehicle. These codes indicate anything from a minor issue to a major issue, and identify the system that is experiencing the issue.
Can I drive when my check engine light is on? Your check engine light illuminates one of two ways. It will either light up and stay on, or it will flash on and off. Do not drive if your check engine light is flashing on and off. A flashing service engine soon light indicates a more serious issue with your vehicle such as an engine misfire. Driving with a flashing service engine soon light could cause severe damage, and end up costing you more in repairs. If the check engine light illuminates and stays on, the issue could be anywhere from a loose gas cap to a issues with your catalytic converter. While we don’t recommend driving with an illuminated, but not flashing check engine light for an extended period of time, you should be safe to drive your vehicle to a local auto repair shop.
What causes my check engine light to come on? There are hundreds of reasons why the light could illuminate, but don’t let that scare you – we’re here to help! While there are many reasons a service engine soon light can come on, the more common reasons are:
How do I diagnose what’s wrong with my vehicle? While there are trouble code readers you can buy similar to what your auto mechanic would use, these readers only tell you which system is faltering, not exactly what the issue is. Sometimes the system that triggered the light isn’t even the system that is having the problem! You still need an experienced auto mechanic to diagnose the issue and recommend repairs. Bring your car to ACA Automotive and we’ll check the code for free! Bring this coupon to your appointment and we’ll do the rest!
*Extract Codes Only
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