You’re driving along in Pasadena and suddenly a yellow light illuminates on your dash, the “Check Engine Light”. If you’re like most car owners, you have little idea about what that light means or what exactly should you do. Call it the most misunderstood indicator on your dashboard, the “check engine light” can mean a variety of issues, from a loose gas cap to a seriously misfiring engine.
It doesn’t mean you have to pull the car over and call a tow truck. It does mean you should get the car checked out as soon as possible. Ignore the warning, and you could end up damaging expensive components. It also could be a sign that your car is getting poor fuel economy and emitting higher levels of pollutants.
The “check engine light” 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 Light Symbol, perhaps with the word “Check.” In addition to turning on the light, the computer stores a “trouble code” in its memory that identifies the source of the problem, such as a malfunctioning sensor or a misfiring engine. If you bring your vehicle in to Certified Auto Repair Specialist we can read the code with an electronic scan tool or our diagnostic computer.
If your check-engine light comes on, here are some tips on what to do:
Look for a serious problem that requires immediate attention. Check your dashboard gauges and lights for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. These conditions mean you should pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can find a safe place to do so. On some cars, a yellow “check engine” means investigate the problem, while a red “check engine” means stop right now.
Try tightening your gas cap. This often solves the problem. Keep in mind that it may take several trips before the light resets or stop into Certified Auto Repair Specialist and we can reset it for you. Some vehicles have a separate indicator that warns of a loose gas cap before the condition sets off the “check engine” light.
Reduce your speed and load. If the “check engine” light is blinking or you notice any serious performance problems, such as a loss of power, reduce your speed and try to reduce the load on the engine. For example, it would be a good idea to stop towing a trailer. Have the car checked as soon as possible to prevent expensive damage.
Don’t go for a state emissions test. In a late-model car, an illuminated “check engine” light probably is a sure sign your car will fail the test, even if the problem was nothing more than a loose gas cap.
Visit Certified Auto Repair Specialist in Pasadena where we have all the latest diagnostic equipment to read all makes and models, including higher end vehicles Mercedes Lexus and BMW.