5 FAQs about when your check engine light comes on


Posted by: Joshua-Philip Okeafor

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Everyone has had an instance when the check engine light comes on, leading to confusion and sometimes panic. Don't worry! These FAQs will tell you what to do. Read now!


What does it mean when your car’s check engine light comes on, and what do you do about it? Many things can give a car owner a scare, such as getting rid of rodents in a car, dealing with a car fire, or the car warning indicator coming on.

A check engine light can be scary and annoying at the same time. It signals that there’s something potentially dangerous happening under the hood of your car, but it won’t tell you exactly what it is.

It can be tempting to ignore the light and brush off the possibility that a repair is actually needed, but that’s not the best idea. Experts believe that the car owner is really, in the long run, possibly hurting their account balance by ignoring that light and leaving it on.


So many myths about the check engine light. What is true?

What Does Your Check Engine Light Mean?

When your car's check engine light illuminates your dashboard, it's usually accompanied by a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. The light could be a minor issue, such as a faulty gas cap, or it could mean something more serious, such as a misfiring engine.

In many cases, it means that you'll be visiting the car dealer to repair the issue and get the light turned off. The check engine light, more formally known as the malfunction indicator lamp, is a signal from the car's engine computer that something is wrong.

Do we hear you ask, what exactly? This Check engine FAQ provides all the answers. Read on!

Check engine light FAQs

1. Why does my check engine light come on?

The electronic brain in your car's powertrain control module (PCM) controls the usual working range of the individual systems in your engine. The check engine light has sensors installed all over your vehicle, so it can warn you when and where something has gone wrong.

After that, you can make an appointment with a competent mechanic to figure out what triggered the alarm in the first place. A loose gas cap, a problem with the mass airflow and oxygen controls, and spark plug and catalytic converter equipment failures are all common problems.

Only after a complete machine diagnosis has been performed may you be confident of what is going on.

>>> More car FAQ? Check this out! 5 FAQs on cleaning car wheels

2. When my check engine light comes on, what do I do next?

Don't panic while you're driving, but instead calmly pull over. With your check engine light on, it's often ok to drive a short way, but if you don't know what's wrong with your car, it's best to just pull off of the highway. If you've comfortably pulled over, go over this checklist to see if there's anything urgent going on.

  • Gas cap is loose
  • Mass Air Flow Sensor
  • Fan, alternator, and serpentine belt
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Spark plugs or plug wires
  • Battery and charging system
  • Overheating
  • Catalytic converter

If you've determined whether or not you could use a tow truck, arrange for an auto computer diagnostic and get your vehicle assessed by a vehicle maintenance specialist who would be able to identify the issue and deliver the necessary support right away.


The indicator light may just mean a failed spark plug

Why causes my check engine light to flicker?

When the check engine light illuminates on your dashboard, it usually appears as a solid light that stays illuminated until the issue is fixed. Although driving with your light on is not recommended, a strong check engine sign means that you will most likely be fine as long as you make an appointment with a mechanic as soon as possible.

If the light is blinking, though, it typically indicates the engine is having serious problems. Pullover, turn off your driver and request a tow truck when your check engine light shines. Take your vehicle to your nearest auto technician and get an engine diagnostic and figure out what's wrong before you drive it home.

3. When my check engine light comes on, do I require repairs?

When your check engine light turns on, you won't actually require maintenance every time. It's not really essential to do anything other than tightening the gas cap sometimes. The check engine light, on the other hand, is usually an indication that your car has a major problem that needs to be fixed.

Bringing your car over to be checked by a certified car maintenance professional, regardless of the issue, is the best way to fix any potential issues and avoid more damage down the road. Professional mechanics can examine the car's machine to decide what, if any, repairs are necessary. If you need to have your car towed, avoid these towing mistakes. 


Ignoring the engine indicator light might mean pushing your car later

4. Is it okay if I skip doing anything about the check engine light?

Carmakers would not have produced a special light for anything if they felt it was unimportant. If your check engine light turns on, it means you have a problem that needs to be fixed.

If your check engine light has previously turned off on its own, it indicates the part that was triggering the warning has returned to its usual working range and is no longer alerting your PCM.

If that's a recurrent issue in your car, it might quickly resurface and trigger problems. When the search engine light comes on, it's time to bring the car in for a tech diagnostic.

5. What your mechanic should do about check engine light

Your mechanic should not take shortcuts. Often car shops have free check engine light packages that only test the control module for current trouble codes and do not take the time to locate and diagnose the exact issue. You should be aware that this isn't a complete diagnosis.

Your mechanics will have to work as long as it takes to fully inspect the engine, going under the hood, disassembling components, and inspecting systems over and over before they get the green light.

A professional technician must take the codes that the diagnostic tool generates and not quit until he or she has tested and repaired any potential problem in order to get the car back in working order.

See if you can find an auto repair shop that provides a warranty on all repairs performed by the car care experts there, giving you peace of mind as you drive off the lot.


Make sure your mechanic do right by your car

Learn more about the check engine light in the video:

Check Engine Light On in Your Car? The Truth About What it Means


When the check engine light comes on, there is an automatic temptation to panic mindlessly. However, a cool head is always the best reaction, as well as following the points outlined above. We hope you have a happy and safe drive time. Enjoy!

>>> More maintenance tips here for you

What does the check engine light do?

Is it safe to ignore the check engine light?

Can you drive with the check engine light on?

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Car buying & selling

Joshua, or KK as friends call him, is a Filmmaker, Writer and Director. A Christian, Joshua is a product of Nigeria’s foremost film school, the National Film Institute, Jos, where he majored in Writing/Directing. Joshua began his writing career at age 18 when an older brother gave him a four page outline of a children novel. Joshua intends to keep writing and directing. His screen name is sometimes Joshua Kalu Ephraim (Writing), and sometimes Joshua KK (directing).

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