Table of Contents Show
You are traveling in your car, enjoying your drive. Suddenly, you observe that your car’s check engine light has turned on. Your immediate thought will be to find a solution to this situation: What to do when the check engine light comes on.
There are numerous possibilities for your check engine light to illuminate. It might be due to a loose gas cap, or in worst cases, it might even be a fault in emissions.
Regardless of the reason, you should know what steps to take when your check engine light appears illuminated on your dashboard. Here, we have explained all details related to it. Let us get to those details.
1. What Role Does a Check Engine Light Play?
You can witness the Check engine light as one of the telltales on your dashboard. It is a component of your car’s onboard diagnostics system (OBD).
Thanks to technological advances, many vehicles have been developed in which the computer plays an important role. These computers control and monitor your vehicle’s performance by regulating variables. These variables include engine speed, ignition timing, and fuel mixture.
In modern cars, the computer also gives input to the automatic transmission on when to shift. When the computer detects an issue in the electronic control system that it cannot fix, it enables a yellow warning light known as the check engine light.
1.1. What Happens After the Light is Enabled?
After enabling the light, a trouble code gets stored in the computer’s memory. These trouble codes detect the fundamental cause of the problem. A few examples of the problem may be a faulty sensor or an engine misfire.
2. What to Do When The Check Engine Light Comes on Flashing?
You need not panic if the yellow check engine light gets illuminated. Though the light indicates some fault, it is not that there is a severe engine failure issue each time it turns on. According to an official from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, you do not need to stop your vehicle immediately and get help from a tow truck.
You can continue traveling and let your car undergo a diagnostic test at the earliest. However, if your check engine is flashing rather than being static, then your engine requires immediate attention. Then you have to attend to this issue without further delay.
When you encounter a flashing check engine light, it will be a red or orange light rather than a yellow light.
3. How to Recognize the Check Engine Light in Your Car?
Not everyone is familiar with all the telltales present on the dashboard of their car. Then how do you spot the check engine light once illuminates? This check engine light will be yellow when it comes on.
However, the shape may not remain the same in all cars. In a few cars, the check engine light has only the word check written. There will not be anything else.
While in a few cars, the light resembles an engine shape. You can observe the word check very rarely in these cases.
4. What Are the Likely Causes For Check Engine Lights to Get Illuminated?
There might be numerous reasons for check engine lights to get illuminated. Let us analyze them below so that you can know what to do when the check engine light comes on.
4.1. Loose Gas Cap
Your gas tank system will comprise lines and valves. These lines and valves will recirculate gasoline vapors and prevent them from escaping. If the gas cap is loose, your check engine light starts glowing.
If you allow your gas cap to remain faulty without fixing, you will lose fuel through evaporation. Your recirculation system will malfunction.
4.2. Faulty Catalytic Converter
The Catalytic converter assists in safeguarding our environment. How does the converter accomplish this? It does so when it superheats hydrocarbons and other toxic tailpipe emissions into compounds. These compounds are water vapor and also carbon dioxide.
If you have a bad catalytic converter, it will reduce your fuel economy and performance and will make your emissions surge. This surge will result in your vehicle not passing the emissions test.
Also, there are fewer chances for this catalytic converter to fail by itself. There might be some external reasons for this to happen. A blown head gasket could be one such reason. This condition can push burnt coolant vapor into your vehicle’s exhaust system.
4.3. Is Replacement an Option?
The issue will remain even if the converter or the oxygen sensors surrounding it is replaced. Sometimes, doing this will result in your converter failing again.
4.4. Worn Spark Plugs
Your spark plugs are why your engine’s cylinders receive power and combustion. The spark plugs accomplish this by igniting a fuel and air mixture. If these plugs don’t fire properly, an engine misfire may occur.
When your engine misfires, the hydrocarbon emissions may increase and affect the performance of your engine.
4.5. Dirty Mass Airflow Sensor
What is the role of a Mass airflow sensor in your car? The sensor checks how much air enters your engine to establish how much fuel is required to run it perfectly.
In case of any leaks before or after the sensor in the intake tract, it may generate a light. Never allow the mass airflow sensor to get tainted with oil, dirt, and water vapor, as they are very much sensitive to these components and may activate the light.
Sometimes, cleaning the sensor will resolve the issue. Some scenarios require a replacement. When your mass airflow sensor is at fault, other parts may fail too. As a result, reduced performance and poor fuel economy will occur.
4.6. Faulty Sensors
Your Engine Control Unit (ECU) contains various sensors. When your sensors have loose wiring, or if your oxygen sensor is faulty, it will turn on your check engine light.
The oxygen sensor estimates the quantity of unburned oxygen in your vehicle’s exhaust and provides this input to the ECU.
The ECU utilizes this data to fine-tune the air-fuel ratio. But when your sensor is faulty, it may make your engine burn extra fuel than necessary. This action will result in poor fuel economy.
5. A Few Measures to Take if the Check Engine Light Illuminates
You have come across the likely reasons for your check engine light to turn on. Now, let us go through a few measures to try if the light turns on. These measures will help you until you can seek a professional mechanic.
5.1. Check If the Issue Needs to Be Addressed Immediately
Examine your dashboard gauges and lights, and find out if there are signs of low oil pressure or overheating. If you find these signs, you should immediately stop your car and shut off your engine once you find a secure place to do so.
5.2. Inspect Your Gas Cap
Sometimes, you will find your gas cap loose. Once you identify this and tighten it, you will be relieved to see the issue vanish.
You should also know that it may need several trips before your light resets. A few vehicles comprise a dedicated telltale to warn if you have a loose gas cap.
5.3. Decrease Your Speed and Load
If your check engine light blinks during your drive, the best approach you can take is to decrease the load on your engine. You can also immediately decrease your speed. Ensure that you drive your car to the nearest service center quickly.
6. Try Doing a Diagnostic Test
Several latest cars are equipped with inbuilt remote diagnostic systems. With a diagnostic test, these systems can notify trouble codes and make a service appointment.
7. Visiting a Professional Mechanic
Even after trying various steps, and you cannot figure out why your check engine light appears turned on, it is time to visit your mechanic.
8. What Are Diagnostic Codes?
Speaking of diagnostic tests, it is also vital to know a little about these diagnostic codes. They are five-digit codes that recognize a specific issue in your vehicle.
8.1. How Are These Codes Accessed?
An OBD ii scanner or a reader can help you access the diagnostic codes in your vehicle. This scanner is connected to a 16-pole port located under your steering column.
Now, to get the diagnostic code that enabled your check engine light to illuminate, you can try the below ways.
- You can get your car checked in a car repair shop. They will run their code readers to detect the issue.
- You can buy an OBD scanner yourself. There are numerous OBD ii apps available for your smartphone. You can connect the Bluetooth of your car to access the codes.
9. What Are Warning Lights?
If you are driving a vehicle, you must understand what your warning lights mean. They are responsible for giving signals when your car faces an issue.
Your owner’s manual will depict the position of the telltales on your cluster panel and assist you in understanding the meaning. Once you are familiar, it will be easy to understand the cause when warning lights turns on.
Are All Check Engine Light Issues Costly?
No, not all issues involve costly repairs. Some cases may require a simple tightening of the gas or fuel cap. Once you fix it, you can keep your ride running smoothly.
Is it Alright to Drive With Your Check Engine Light Illuminated?
No. It is not a good idea, though it may appear tempting. Though your issue may initially be minor, it might evolve into a major one.
Maintaining your car regularly will ensure you have fewer situations in which you have to be concerned about what to do when the check engine light comes on. In case it occurs, you should know the measures to take.
Hello all! Archana here. A graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering with a passion for writing.
An ardent reader of books, and writer delivering content related to relationships, babies, pets, and a lot more through proper research.
I will take you on a journey of reading where you will enjoy and get to know various facts as well.