So, you’re driving along, carefree, and it happens: that scary “check engine” light pops up on your dash. Should you pull over? Should you run for cover? What’s going on? Aaahhhh!!!
What does this mean? Truth be told, just the light popping on doesn’t really say a whole lot. However, you don’t immediately have to pull over (unless the light is flashing – we’ll talk about that later). Please do get the car checked as soon as you possibly can, though.
This light can illuminate for many reasons, ranging from a loose gas cap to serious engine problems. When the light comes on, the car sends a code to its computer system which indicates the nature of the problem. This code can be read by a handheld scanner at your local auto repair shop. But, these simple scanners can only give you general information on the problem; it’s best to get this checked out by a local mechanic with a modern scanner.
If your “check engine” light is blinking – luckily, this is rare – it is an indicator that there is a serious problem with your engine that needs immediate attention. Do not ignore this! Pull over, stop the car, and get a tow to your local shop.
Based on this information, you may be tempted to drive around with the “check engine” light on for a while. This could be costly, and/or become a safety hazard, especially if you don’t know the nature of the problem. As with many things in life, if you take care of the smaller problem now, it will often be less costly in the long run. And, it is less likely to leave you inconveniently stranded!