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  • Writer's picturecontracostamm

Oh No! The Dreaded Check Engine Light Is On.

By Jesssica Wright

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?

What A Check Engine Light Can Mean

What does this mean? Truth be told, just the light popping on doesn't really give you a lot of information. However, you don't immediately have to pull over (unless the light is flashing - we'll talk about that later). Do get the car checked as soon as you possibly can, though, since some of the causes of a check engine light can cause severe damage if left unchecked.

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, indicating the nature of the problem. This code can be read by a handheld scanner at your local auto repair shop, or sometimes at your local auto parts store. But, these simple scanners can only give you general information on the problem; it's best to get your car checked out by a local mechanic who owns a modern scanner.

What If My Check Engine Light Is Blinking?

If your "check engine" light is blinking - luckily, this is rare - it is an indication that there is a serious problem with your engine that needs immediate attention. Do not ignore this! Pull over now, 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. Don't give in to this temptation! 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 stranded at an inopportune time!

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