When your Check Engine light comes on, you may be torn between panic and just wanting to ignore it with hopes it goes away. That's perfectly understandable. The Check Engine light could come on for anything from a serious engine or transmission problem to a minor issue, such as a loose gas cap. Ignoring it if the vehicle drives fine may seem reasonable, but problems will likely continue to mount.
There's a very common misconception that the trouble codes stored in your engine computer, when your check engine light comes on, will specifically identify a problem. This isn’t the case. In reality the codes that are stored in your car’s computer, are really identifying the area of the problem and not the actual cause of it.
Think of taking your temperature when you have a fever. The thermometer reads 101°. The thermometer tells you that your temperature is out of the normal range. But it doesn't tell you why you have a fever. Is it the flu or a sinus infection? In order to find out the true cause of the fever, you need more information, an evaluation from a healthcare provider, and possibly testing to determine the cause.
Similarly, a check engine light coming on alerts you to a problem. You can pull the stored trouble codes that indicate the area or system of the vehicle that is malfunctioning but, the code does not tell us exactly what part of that system is causing the problem. For any given trouble code, there could be a number of causes. Our trained technicians take the code as a starting point and begin a diagnostic process to determine the actual cause of the problem.
Should you still drive the vehicle with a check engine light on? The simple answer is sometimes. You can still drive with the light illuminated, assuming the car is not having runnability issues and the light is on solid but you should get it checked out as soon as possible. If the light flashes, that means you need to pull over immediately and potentially have your car towed as your vehicle has a more serious issue that could cause more damage if you continue driving.
Regardless of whether or not the lights is glowing or flashing, give us a call here at Old Town Auto and we will find out what is causing it.
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Revised from content contributed by NAPA Service Assistant