What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

Austin Butler

Assuming you are driving down the road and listening to your brand new Uconnect radio with Apple Car Play and then suddenly your “engine” light comes on? Yes that little yellow engine light blinking on your dashboard is a “check engine light”. It looks like this:

If you have ever driven a car before then you know that your vehicle is probably trying to communicate something to you. So what should you do? No you don’t have to pull over immediately but it is important that you take precautions, because you could end up damaging expensive components in your vehicle!

What does it mean?

Over the years, the technologies in automobiles have become more accurate and reliable, hence, when the computer in your vehicle finds a problem in the electrical control system that it cannot correct, a yellow symbol lights up that is labeled “check engine” or “service engine soon”.

In addition to turning on the light—known as the International Check Engine Symbol—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. The code can be read with an electronic scan tool or a diagnostic computer—standard equipment in auto repair shops. There are also a number of relatively inexpensive code readers that are designed for do-it-yourselfers. Check out ours here!

If you do not own one of these code readers, we recommend going to a local auto store where they will check your car for free with the code reader!

Most of the time, this code will point you in the direction of the problem; sometimes the problem can be so minor that it is just telling you that you need an oil change. If you ever have doubt with the code, go to a professional for help!

What to Do?

When the check engine light comes on, it will either blink or remain constantly illuminated, depending on the problem. A blinking light, or in some cars a red light instead of a yellow or orange light, indicates a problem that needs immediate attention. Either way, you should have the vehicle checked by a mechanic.

In late-model cars, a blinking light usually indicates an engine misfire so severe that unburned fuel is being dumped into the exhaust system, where it can quickly damage the catalytic converter, leading to an expensive repair. If that happens, you should reduce power and have the car or truck looked at as soon as possible.

If the light is steady, the problem is not an emergency, but you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Today’s automotive computers often try to compensate when there’s a problem, so you might not notice deterioration in performance, even though your fuel mileage might be suffering and your vehicle emitting unacceptable levels of hydrocarbons and other pollutants.

So when you come across a “check engine light”, don’t panic, most of the time it is something minor and could even be caused by a gas cap not being fully tightened. Make sure you look for a serious problem before brushing it under the rug and when in doubt, see a mechanic! We hope this article helps you and if you have any questions leave them in the comments!  


diagnostics– Defiant Auto Parts


Keywords: Engine light blinking, check engine, check engine light, check engine diagnostics, obd2 port

Add a comment