AD – This is a collaborative post // You are driving along, and you notice a glow from your dashboard. You see your check engine light on. Can you keep driving? Do you need to pull over immediately? These indicator lights are sometimes called idiot lights because they can only be on or off with very little additional information (not very smart). So, it can be a little unclear what you should do next.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

When You Should Pull Over

A check engine light does not necessarily mean that you need to pull over right away. However, it can be a sign that you should. Unfortunately, the indicator light itself does not provide much information.

Pay attention to other factors when you are driving. For example, you may notice that there are strange noises coming from the engine. Alternatively, you may feel a jolt or vibration. If either of these symptoms occurs or the vehicle is otherwise driving strangely, pull over. These indicate that there may be a mechanical issue with the vehicle, meaning that it isn’t safe to drive.

Another thing to look for is the light behavior. On some vehicles, the light may flash for serious problems. In other cases, there are mechanical fault lights or multiple color options for the check engine light. These can indicate a more serious fault. Check your owner’s manual for more information.

Why Is My Check Engine Light On?

There are a wide variety of reasons why the check engine light may be on. In some vehicles, it can indicate that you need to get a scheduled service soon. It may also indicate a fault. The check engine light is only associated with car parts that involve emissions. Therefore, cars cannot pass inspection with the light on.

You can get more information about the problem by observing the vehicle. In some cases, the light will be connected to an obvious problem. In other cases, you may need to scan the engine diagnostic codes to learn more.

These codes are set in the engine computer whenever a fault is detected. They can be scanned with a machine that plugs into the OBD-2 port near the steering column (present on all vehicles made in 1998 or later). If you see the light on, follow these steps:

  1. Check for Serious Problems: Before continuing to drive, look for any serious issues. These may include smoke, damaged parts, overheating and similar problems.
  2. Check the Gas Cap: One of the most common reasons for a check engine light is a loose gas cap. Check that it is tight enough.
  3. Drive Carefully: If you aren’t sure what the issue is, drive home carefully. If you think it is serious, call a tow truck.
  4. Check the Codes: Either run the codes yourself or have someone else do it. This should reveal the problem.

Check Your Check Engine Light Today

If you want to learn more about why your check engine light is on, you can get a free check engine light test at many places including AutoZone stores. This can help you to diagnose the problem and get it fixed promptly. Get started working on your vehicle today.

4 Comments

  1. This is such an helpful post! I still remember light as day when some lights would go off in my first car and start panicking about what to do or not. Luckily my parents were always a call away and nothing ever happened! But you can never be too cautious!

  2. I learned the hard way that if the check engine sign is on AND it looks like smoke is coming out of your bonnet, probs best to pull over NOW and not just cross your fingers and hope to make it home!

  3. This is so helpful and important. I’m useless with cars and they case me great anxiety. You should start series to do with driving! Honestly, there is so much I don’t understand and find to be so, so stressful.

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