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What Does Your Check Engine Light Mean?

by Garrett User - Posted 1 month ago


Your vehicle’s Check Engine Light (CEL) is never a positive indicator. Identifying the reason for its illumination can vary from a minor obstruction to imminent critical vehicle damage. If your CEL is steadily lit, your engine sensors have identified suspicious behavior, perhaps with an engine component or sensor. But if the light is flashing, the issue with your engine could cause immediate damage and it is imperative to pull over immediately. The recommended action is to visit a vehicle service center to get the light turned off, regardless of the severity of your engine’s issue.

An at-home option for previewing potential engine problems can be conducted with a code reader, which can be purchased at an auto parts store or online retailer. Most code readers allow users to turn off or reset the check engine light. It is important to note that a code reader does not repair any issue with your engine and that, oftentimes, the light will turn back on later. But a code reader can present users with a code which can be searched for on the internet to decipher its meaning. 

Causes for your Check Engine Light’s emergence on your dash can vary in severity (and cost). Common solutions may include replacing ignition coils, spark plugs, oxygen sensors, converters, fuel injectors, and/or thermostat. There is always a chance the light turned on because of a temporary problem caused by weather conditions. In this case, the light should go out by itself in a short period of time. But it is important to address these potential issues immediately to prevent larger (and costlier) problems down the road. Additionally, the CEL must be turned off in order to pass state vehicle inspection. 

The Check Engine Light can potentially lead to a hefty vehicle expense and may discourage drivers from getting their vehicles serviced. Troubleshooting at home with a code reader is a viable option but primarily serves as a starting point and not a long-term solution. Visiting a service center will provide a more comprehensive diagnosis of your vehicle’s engine and help prevent further (and more severe) damage to your engine and vehicle. When your Check Engine Light is illuminated, place the safety of yourself and others first and get your vehicle serviced.