Why You Really Shouldn’t Ignore Your Check Engine Light

March 11, 2016


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Your dashboard warning lights are the closest your car can get to telling you something’s wrong.  Dash warning lights have a traffic light colour code.  Green lights are for informational purposes, amber lights need you to take action but not straight away and red lights need your immediate attention.

The Engine Management Light (also known as the Check Engine Light or Malfunction Indicator Light) is one of the trickier dashboard warning lights to interpret.

Although Engine Management Lights usually flash amber, it’s important not to ignore it or you could risk your safety and damage to your car.

What is The Engine Management Light?

Your engine management light alerts you that your engine function is impaired in some way.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t give you any more specific information to go on.


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Your mechanic will be able to diagnose the problem by plugging in a machine that interprets the error code from your car’s computer.

Even this doesn’t give the mechanic a complete picture of what’s wrong with the engine, it simply tells the mechanic the location of the sensor that registered the error, which in turn tells them where to look.

What Can Trigger the Engine Management Light?

  • Loose or damaged fuel cap
  • Misfiring spark plugs
  • Damaged or faulty oxygen sensor
  • Impaired functionality of catalytic converter
  • Problems with the fuel pump

What Should You Do?

When your Engine Management Light first comes on, you can probably continue to drive, at least for a little while.

There shouldn’t be any need to pull over immediately or call for roadside assistance.

However, you should take your car to an auto repair shop to get your engine checked out by a mechanic as soon as you are able.

The first thing to do is check your fuel cap.

Often a faulty or damaged fuel cap is enough to trigger the warning light, but if the light doesn’t go off when you re-start your car then you’ll need to take it to a mechanic to get checked out.

It’s possible to buy your own engine code reader, like the one a mechanic would use.

If you’re savvy about car mechanics you might even be able to perform some running repairs yourself, such as tightening a fuel cap or replacing an oxygen sensor.

However, error codes often have several possible triggers, so it could be difficult for you to pinpoint the problem on your own.

It’s preferable to get your car checked out by a qualified mechanic who will have experience in diagnosing and repairing engine problems, they’ll have all the right tools at their fingertips and they’ll also be able to check whether there’s a manufacturing fault registered against your car’s make or model.

The good news about the Engine Management Light is that it doesn’t usually require immediate attention.  You should safely be able to drive to your nearest garage or auto repair shop for assistance.  However, it’s vital to take action at the first opportunity as failure to do so can result in further damage to your car and more costly repairs.


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