What to Do When the Check Engine Light Comes On
You never want to ignore a check engine light. It’s important to take steps to figure out what the malfunction may be.
Check engine lights vary depending on the manufacturer. They are usually red, orange or yellow and typically appear as a car engine symbol. The check engine light is commonly confused with the “service light.” However, the “service light” doesn’t indicate a mechanical problem and usually means the vehicle is due for regular service.
The sensors in the engine monitor the operation of the vehicle’s systems. These sensors connect to the On-Board Diagnostic II System (OBD II.) When a system isn’t functioning correctly, the check engine light will alert you.
The two types of check engine warnings are:
- Check engine light is flashing: This indicates a more severe problem. If the vehicle is running when a flashing check engine light comes on, pull over to a safe location and shut the engine off. To prevent further damage, you may want to have the car towed to a service location.
- Check engine light is solid: If the check engine light appears and remains on, you should get your vehicle assessed as soon as possible. A variety of issues could be responsible–all of which you will want to get sorted out as quickly as possible.
How To Fix the Check Engine Light
Every problem that may cause the check engine light to come on has a corresponding code in your car’s computer system. This information is logged by the engine’s sensors and is read with an OBD II scanner or a reader that is connected through the OBD port located beneath the steering column.
There are three options for reading the code:
- Have it read at an auto parts store. Most auto parts stores will read the code for free. If the code is for something minor, it could be an easy fix that you can handle yourself.
- Read the code yourself. You will have to buy a scanner for this option. The costs for these scanners vary considerably depending on the device’s complexity and the age of the vehicles on which they work.
- Have the mechanic perform diagnostics. There is usually a fee for this service. However, some repair shops may waive the cost if you agree to have the necessary repairs performed at their shop. Consider calling ahead to determine initial costs.
Although there are still some mechanically minded drivers who like diagnosing and repairing their own vehicles, these people are in the minority. If your check engine light goes on, you’ll likely want to head to your preferred mechanic.
Should I Reset the Check Engine Light?
In some cases, it is possible to reset the check engine light. Using a code reader, you may be able to turn the light off yourself. However, this isn’t recommended. If there is a problem, resetting the check engine light won’t help fix it. Ignoring an engine problem can lead to it worsening or more issues arising.
Causes for the check engine light can vary and the cost of fixing the problem may be low or extremely high depending on the severity of the issues. What could start as a simple spark plug issue could lead to a serious problem with a more expensive system, such as the catalytic converter. Your best option will be to determine the cause of the code then seek professional help if the issue is a complicated one.
What if the Check Engine Light Is for a Costly Repair?
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