That orange lamp on your dash that either shows a picture of an engine or says “check engine” is often misunderstood so here is the check engine lamp demystified.
- This light is there to indicate a malfunction with your vehicle’s engine management system.
- On any vehicle 1996 and newer it will illuminate for any concern that will cause excessive vehicle emissions.
- Many times when the light illuminates you will feel no difference in the way your vehicle runs. This is because many emission reduction systems on your vehicle do not affect the engine’s performance. At times when you don’t feel diminished performance it is because your powertrain computer is compensating for the defect and readjusting things so that performance feels normal.
- As with all amber lights on your dash, an illuminated check engine lamp indicates a concern that needs to be addressed but it is not crucial that it be done immediately (unlike your red oil lamp which, should it illuminate means stop your engine NOW).
- If your check engine lamp is blinking have repairs conducted as soon as possible. The blinking check engine lamp indicates a catalytic converter damaging engine misfire. Usually when the lamp blinks this will be accompanied by a rough running engine. Failure to repair the misfire quickly will damage your catalytic converters and cost you a lot of extra money.
- If you go to AirCare with your check engine lamp on and your car is 1998 and newer you will fail the test! So save money and have it fixed first.
- When your check engine lamp comes on it is rarely associated with low engine oil or low coolant. It is however wise to check these fluids just in case they are low.
What if my engine runs fine and I just leave the check engine lamp? If your lamp is on it is most important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Some items are more critical to repair than others as is the case with engine misfires. Other items can be left if your budget doesn’t allow for repairs today but it is best to know the urgency and the consequence of not doing the repairs now.