Check Engine Light Warning – Most car owners don’t know what to do when there’s a warning on their dashboard. This is the yellow or orange light that illuminates, prompting them to open up their car manual to figure it out. Usually there’s a long list of things to check even though it’s indicating something about the engine.
The check engine light warning is the most misunderstood signal coming from the vehicle. It can mean many different things, from a loose gas cap to a seriously misfiring engine. In fact, it probably isn’t anything at all.
“It doesn’t mean you have to pull the car over to the side of the road and call a tow truck. It does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible,” says Dave Cappert of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, a Virginia-based organization that tests and certifies auto technicians.
However, ignore the warning, and you could end up damaging expensive components. It also can be a sign that your car is getting poor fuel economy and emitting higher levels of pollutants. It is part of your car’s so-called onboard diagnostics (OBD) system.
Since the 1980s, computers increasingly have controlled and monitored vehicle performance, regulating such variables as engine speed (RPM), fuel mixture, and ignition timing. In some cars, the computer also tells the automatic transmission when to shift.
When it finds a problem in the electronic-control system that it can’t correct, the computer turns on a yellow warning indicator that’s labeled “check engine,” “service engine soon” or “check powertrain.” Or the light may be nothing more than a picture of an engine, known as the International Check Engine Symbol, perhaps with the word “Check.”
Take it to a mechanic or dealer you can trust.