You’re in the driver’s seat, making your way through traffic. Suddenly, your eye catches an amber-yellow light pop up on your dashboard. This funny-shaped indicator has been on for a second or so every time you start the engine but it goes out right away. It’s never been on while you drive. Is this the Check Engine light you’ve heard so many stories about? Chances are pretty good that it is, indeed, the Check Engine light. And since it came on, you think back to the funny noise you hear once in awhile. And there’s that stutter-step feeling that’s been happening. Maybe you should’ve looked after it sooner. But what does the Check Engine light mean?
What the Check Engine Light Tells YouThe thing about the Check Engine light is that it doesn’t tell you much. You see, it’s true name is the malfunction indicator lamp, or MIL. It does more than just check the engine. The one yellow light on your instrument cluster provides a general warning that there’s something wrong – that’s it.
Can’t You Determine Specific Issues?You can get a very specific diagnosis from the Check Engine light, that’s true. But unless you have an expensive diagnostic scanner of your very own, it needs to be checked at a dealership. Until that happens, you don’t know what the root of the problem is. It could be:
- A really minor problem like a loose gas cap. When the gas cap is left loose or off, your emissions system thinks there’s a massive leak.
- Emissions-related concerns. Perhaps there’s a hose leaking for a vent valve or the EGR system is blocked.
- A transmission problem. The transmission has a handful of sensors that monitor its operation. If there’s any fault, it turns on the Check Engine light.
- An engine issue. It could be a verifiable engine problem, like a spark plug not firing or a cylinder that doesn’t have compression.