What To Do When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

No one wants to see that little light appear on the dashboard. However, before you start running through all the disastrous and expensive scenarios possible, take a deep breath and consider what our experts have to say about what to do when your Check Engine Light appears.

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What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?
The Check Engine Light on your vehicle is there to let you know if there is a problem, but the severity of that problem can vary greatly. Many drivers either panic or ignore this little indicator until it's more convenient to have their vehicle serviced. The reality is that neither of these reactions are sensible. Read on for more about why your Check Engine Light is on and what to do about it.
The diagnostic system in your vehicle is extremely sophisticated and sensitive. This means that your Check Engine Light may pop on for a wide variety of reasons, many of which are minor issues that don’t require expensive repairs. However, this doesn’t mean the Check Engine Light should be ignored. Some of the more common issues that may trigger your Check Engine Light include:
  • A loose or open fuel cap
  • Dirty spark plugs
  • A broken or failing catalytic converter
  • An emissions equipment issue
  • A vacuum leak
  • Low battery
  • Improperly firing fuel injectors
No. If it’s a loose gas cap, all you have to do is tighten it when you get home and the Check Engine Light will turn off again. However, you won’t know for sure until you get it checked out. This is just one more reason not to delay. If there is a major problem, waiting to get a diagnosis can make the potential repair more and more expensive.
We do not recommend driving when your Check Engine Light on. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make an emergency stop but you should make a plan to park safely and have your vehicle checked out as soon as possible. Driving with the Check Engine Light on might also transform a minor issue into a major problem. The good news is that vehicles in North America are sold with an OBD-II port for diagnosing sudden issues with your vehicle. Connecting a code reader to the port will give you some idea of the severity of the problem and tell you whether or not it is safe to drive to your preferred vehicle service provider. Code readers are widely available, inexpensive, and easily stowed in your emergency roadside kit. Our team at Jack Carter Cherolet recommends every driver invest in a code reader.
Don’t panic! If you see a steady Check Engine Light there’s usually no need to make an emergency stop unless something feels immediately wrong with your drive. If you suddenly hear a new noise, smell something off, or feel a change in the way your vehicle is handling it's a good idea to act by pulling over as quickly and safely as possible. The same goes for a blinking Check Engine Light, which indicates a more severe problem. You can also scan your dash and instrument panel for other warning lights that may give you more information.

If you see that little Check Engine Light glowing, make a plan to address it right away whether that’s pulling over or scheduling an appointment with us. While we all hope it’s just a loose fuel cap, waiting to find out will only make the issue more expensive and possibly more dangerous. Our service team at Jack Carter Chevrolet can help you diagnose and address any issue with your vehicle. Next time you see that Check Engine Light, give us a call at 403-258-6300 so we can get you back on the road safely!