Check Engine Light ExplainedA check engine light is a warning indicator on a vehicle’s dashboard that alerts the driver to a malfunction within the vehicle’s emissions, ignition, or fuel systems. The light is also known as a “service engine soon” or “malfunction indicator lamp.” Although the light doesn’t mean you need to stop the car immediately and call a tow truck, you should still get the vehicle checked as soon as possible. The check engine light is only triggered when the onboard diagnostics (OBD) system detects a fault or a malfunction within the car system. Onboard diagnostics (OBD) systems are electronic systems built into modern vehicles to monitor and diagnose various components and systems within the car. These systems use sensors and other diagnostic equipment to gather data about the vehicle’s performance and report it to the driver or a mechanic via a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). Every car has an OBD system dating back as far as the 1980s. And they have become increasingly sophisticated over time. In the past, OBD systems were mainly used to monitor and control variables such as fuel mixture, ignition timing, and transmission shifting. However, modern OBD systems can monitor various vehicle systems and components, including the engine, transmission, brakes, and emissions control systems. OBD systems play a crucial role in helping drivers and mechanics identify and address problems with a vehicle. There are instances where the OBD may detect a problem that it cannot correct. This is when the engine light on the dashboard comes on, which signals to the driver that a vehicle problem needs to be addressed. The check engine light can indicate multiple issues. It could be a loose gas cap or a more severe malfunction, such as a faulty engine or transmission component. Meanwhile, having illuminated the check light, the OBD stores a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) in its memory, pointing out the problem’s source. The issue could be a sensor malfunction, engine misfire, and issues with the fuel or ignition systems. A DTC is a specific code corresponding to a particular malfunction or problem within the vehicle. The DTC is used to identify the source of the problem and guide the diagnosis and repair process. The DTC can be retrieved using a diagnostic scan tool, a specialized device connecting to the OBD system, and retrieving the stored codes. Usually, you may be required to contact a mechanic or repair technician to use the DTC, along with other diagnostic tests and inspections, to identify the source of the problem and determine the necessary repairs. However, it’s worth noting that code readers are available for anyone to check. These code readers are small, portable devices that can be plugged into a vehicle’s OBD system through the diagnostic port, usually located under the dashboard on the driver’s side of the car. Once the code reader is plugged in, it can retrieve any DTCs stored in the OBD system’s memory. The code reader will display the DTCs on its screen, along with a description of the problem indicated by the code. Some code readers may also include a database of DTCs and their meanings, which can help you understand the problem indicated by the code. Code readers are a helpful tool, especially when you cannot reach a technician or desire to diagnose and address problems with your vehicles on your own. Even so, it is essential to note that code readers only provide a starting point for diagnosis and may not be able to identify all problems with the vehicle. In some cases, further diagnostic tests and inspections may be necessary to diagnose and repair the problem fully. It is recommended to have the vehicle checked by a mechanic or repair technician if the problem persists after using a code reader.
Different Kinds of Check Engine LightsThere are different types of check engine lights, and it usually depends on the car’s make or model. They are:
Solid check engine light: A solid check engine light is a steady light on the dashboard. It indicates a problem with the vehicle that needs to be addressed.
Flashing check engine light: A flashing check engine light is a rapidly blinking light on the dashboard. It indicates that there is a serious problem with the vehicle that needs to be addressed immediately. Driving your vehicle with a flashing check engine light can cause further damage to the car and may be dangerous.
Intermittent check engine light: An intermittent check engine light is a light that comes on and off randomly. It may indicate a problem with the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic (OBD) system or a temporary issue that has resolved itself. It is recommended to have the car checked by a mechanic or repair technician if the check engine light is intermittent.
Check engine light with other warning lights: In some cases, the check engine light could be accompanied by other warning lights on the dashboard. These lights may indicate specific problems with the vehicle, such as low oil pressure or a malfunction in the braking system.