July 14

Don't Disregard Your Check Engine Lamp

Auto Repair, Car Costs, Car Maintenance, Car Repair, Cars and the Environment


Do not underestimate the value of your check engine lamp even if your car runs perfectly well. Disregarding your check engine lamp can add great inconvenience to your life.

Let’s face it, sometimes spending money on car repairs is not your first choice (or even your second or third choice). It’s often one of those “have to” purchases.

Frequently it’s tempting to make choices about what to repair based on how the car runs. And so it goes with your car’s check engine light: that’s the amber lamp that illuminates on your dash that either says “check engine” or shows an outline of an engine. Its main function is to alert you to a concern with your engine management system and/or an engine concern that causes excessive exhaust emissions. Many times your vehicle will run perfectly well and herein lies the temptation to ignore the lamp.

Don't Disregard Your Check Engine Lamp
A check engine lamp

Let’s look at the consequences of ignoring your check engine lamp:

1) If your engine is running poorly and the lamp is on, ignoring this will very likely cost you more money in repairs down the road. A rough running or misfiring engine will usually destroy your catalytic converter(s) which can cost thousands to replace.

2) Even if your engine is running well it may not be running as intended and could be using more fuel, costing you more to drive. Your vehicle’s powertrain computer is designed to compensate for malfunctions and keep it running as close to normal as possible. Often you can’t feel the problem but something is happening that will cost you more either in fuel or premature wear down the road.

3) If you live in the Vancouver Area and your vehicle is seven years or older then it must be tested at AirCare every 2 years. If your vehicle is 1998 and newer the entire test involves interrogating your vehicle’s powertrain computer for defects. If your check engine lamp is on YOU WILL FAIL the test and waste money for the inspection.

The best plan of attack when your check engine lamp comes on it to have it looked at. A basic inspection will retrieve the stored trouble code and from there a technician can discuss a proper diagnostic and repair plan.

On the simple end of the scale he/she may find your gas cap was loose and tightening it solves the concern. On the more complex end of the spectrum several levels of diagnosis may be required to find the cause and repair the concern. Either way it is important to know why the light is on and what effects it may be having on your vehicle.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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