What You Need to Know when Your Car’s Check Engine Indicator Light Comes On

If you drive a car on a routine basis, it is likely that you have had at least one experience with an illuminated check engine light. Whether it is in the form of a phrase or a symbol of your engine, this is one of the more ominous indicator lights. An illuminated light will signify a problem within the vehicle, but the range of possibilities is endless. When the light comes on in your car, you will want to take it to a trusted auto repair shop as soon as possible to avoid further expenses down the road.

What Does the Indicator Light Look Like?

Every vehicle is unique, but in many cases the light is a gold or amber color and depicts an image of an engine. Sometimes, the image will have a lightning bolt through the center, or is accompanied by a phrase. For example, the image of the engine may be displayed with the word "check" underneath it. Occasionally, your car will simply display a phrase such as check engine or service engine soon. There may be an audible warning noise that occurs with the light, such as a beep.

What Are Some Causes of This Light?

There are several different possibilities as to why this light may illuminate. The issue could be something as simple as a loose gas cap, in which case the light will disappear when the cap is tightened. However, it could also indicate a more serious problem within the car’s emission or fuel injection system. For example, an oxygen sensor can detect that there is either an abundance of oxygen in the exhaust, or a circumstance in which the fuel to oxygen ratio is too high. The latter scenario may present with issues such as misfires or a problem with fuel delivery, while the former may cause a lack of power or hesitation when you are attempting to accelerate.

Can Bad Spark Plugs Cause the Light to Come On?

One of the primary causes of this warning light is bad or worn spark plugs. The symptoms of this issue include difficulty starting your car, a rough engine idle, or hesitation when you are driving. In addition, you may feel a stumbling sensation from the engine as you are driving. Although the issue could be something simple such as spark plugs or spark plug wires that need to be replaced, it can indicate other problems. Sometimes, you may have a bad ignition coil, or an air or vacuum leak within your vehicle.

Does the Problem Need to Be Fixed Right Away?

When your check engine light is on, it is important to determine the cause as quickly as possible. While the problem can sometimes be as simple as a loose gas cap, it is usually indicative of an actual problem. If your light is on and is not flashing, it means that while the car needs to be looked at as soon as possible, it is not in immediate danger. However, a check engine light that is on and flashing indicates a serious problem with the vehicle, such as a major cylinder misfire. In this case, you will want to pull over as soon as possible and have your car towed to a repair shop for an assessment.

Does the Light Always Indicate an Expensive Repair?

Whether the issue is a loose gas cap or something more serious, you never want to avoid bringing your car to a repair shop because of the anticipated expense. Although the problem can be simple and inexpensive, you will need to be prepared to spend some money for the repair. In general, the car can be driven for a short while after the light has illuminated, although the initial problem can cause damage in other areas if you continue to ignore it. Drivers whose vehicle is displaying a flashing check engine light should be aware that this is likely a serious issue with the vehicle, and will therefore be more expensive.

A check engine light can be a headache for any driver, whether the problem is large or small. When the indicator light comes on in your car, it is important to have the vehicle inspected as soon as possible. While the issue may be minor, such as a loose gas cap, it can also signify a larger problem. If your light is flashing, it is important to pull the car over as soon as possible and have it towed to your repair shop of choice for an assessment.