Your Check Engine Light

Check Engine Light - How Bad is it?  

A few weeks ago one of my friends found herself in one of those awful moments - she was on the side of the road, waiting for AAA, with a car that had just stopped. Her story ended up ok - she was safe, she had friends to help her out, and the car was ultimately fixed without much trouble - but it scared her. She didn't want to drive that car again. One of her reasons? Although the car had been recently fixed the check engine light came on again, and she decided it was only a matter of time before she found herself in the same situation. She was quite sure that once the check engine light came on, it was only a matter of time before the car died.

As someone who is currently driving a car with 3x the miles on it and a check engine light that has certainly come on periodically, I was curious. When I looked into it, I was surprised to learn that about ten percent of all cars on the road have a check engine light on, and over half of those drivers admitted it's been on (and ignored) for three months or more.

It should be noted that any light that is FLASHING - especially the check engine light - indicates a bigger problem that needs addressing right away. You should definitely not hesitate to get the car in.

So how bad is the check engine light? Does it mean you are destined for a huge repair bill or a new car, or worse, standing roadside hoping for help? When that light comes on, almost everyone has a sinking feeling that something is really wrong. But is it? Well, not necessarily. It could be something huge, but it could be a loose gas cap, a sensor, or even just from a change in the weather.

IF your light goes on, and it's solid, not flashing, the first step (well, after checking to make sure your gas cap is on tightly) is to get the code read. Your local dealership has the computer software that hooks up to your vehicle to diagnose it. Once you find out the problem, and take the car in for service, you will know exactly how bad the issue is and what you can expect to spend.

Turns out that my friend's car had initially stopped because of a clog in the fuel line. The dealer cleared the clog, but the sensor was a taking a while to register that. The code showed the issue, the dealership rechecked the problem and cleared it again, and within a few days, the light was off. Just like anything, ignoring it won't make it go away. When you get those codes read, it probably won't be as bad as you fear!

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