What does check engine light mean?

by IndianAuto Team | 04/10/2018
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Check engine light on the dashboard can mean a lot of things but you do not need to feel intimidated by it. In some situations, you can even take care of the engine by yourself.

The check engine light is a small lamp on the dashboard that tells whether there is a malfunction with the engine. The light’s illumination can mean a lot of things, sometimes a small problem and sometimes an extremely serious issue. To put it simple, the check engine light is a part of the engine control unit, which monitors and controls the engine so that it can operate as effectively and as smoothly as it possibly could. If there are any irregularities in the process that the engine control unit receives, the check engine light will turn on automatically.

Some may suggest you buy a code reader from an auto parts store to diagnose the problem yourself, but we do not think it is very advisable for people who are not familiar with the technicalities of the car, because even if you can see the code, you are not likely to understand it, let alone fix the car on your own. And if you resist fixing the car on your own, you may risk damaging the car and putting yourself in danger. So it is still better if you can take your car to professionals as soon as possible.

1. The state of the light

First, you need to know the state of the check light engine. In most cars, when the check engine light pops up, there are two scenarios: it either blinks or lights steadily. If the latter happens to your car, you do not need to worry too much as the problem is not likely to be very severe. Nonetheless, a trip to the repair shop to diagnose the cause of the check engine light popping up needs to be done quickly. On the other hand, if the light flashes non-stop, you would want to seek professional help as soon as you detect the flickering light, because a blinking light often means a serious problem. If you do not stop driving and act quickly, your engine can overheat and some important parts are likely to be damaged severely. Sometimes, the light turns on all by itself temporarily due to a sudden change in the external environment such as humidity, and there is nothing wrong with the car. The bottom line is that as long as the check engine light is not dim, it is recommended that you take your car to a qualified service technician as soon as you can. However, before the can reaches your trusted mechanics, there are a few things you can do to prevent serious damages to the car.

Check engine light on dashboard

The first step is recognising the state of the light

2. Give your car a simple checkup

After knowing the state of the check engine light, you can give your car some easy checkups and take actions accordingly. There is a simple checklist in case the check engine light turns on:

Five signs showing that there is not likely to be a serious problem

  • No strange smell

  • No strange noise

  • No smoke

  • Same gas mileage

  • The car runs as normal

Five signs showing that there is likely to be a serious problem

  • A severe loss of power
  • Unusual noise
  • Smoke
  • A severe drop in gas mileage
  • The car cannot start


Smoke from car

If the check engine light is on and smoke is coming from your car, there are some serious problems

After doing some superficial exam, you can proceed to do some more checking. Five places you should definitely give a thorough examination are gas cap, catalytic converter, mass airflow sensor, oxygen sensor, and spark plug. These things may seem trivial, but a loose gas cap, a failure in catalytic converter, or a problem with mass airflow sensor may affect the whole fuel system and cause a drop in mileage, and a disconnection in spark plug can lead to a jolt during acceleration. Moreover, issues in these places are some possible causes of the check engine light.

Gas cap 

Loose gas cap can be a reason why the check engine light is on

>>> Read more tips and guides from IndianAuto

The meaning of warning lights on your dashboard

All You Need to Know about Warning Lamps (Part I)

All You Need to Know about Warning Lamps (Part II)

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