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May 7, 2013

What does it mean when my check engine light is on?



Everyone dreads the time when they start up their car and the Multi-function Indicator Lamp, or the ‘Check Engine Light’, stays illuminated. This is quite a common occurrence and is almost bound to happen to everyone at some point (most people likely more than once). Most of the time it’s nothing to be severely alarmed about – your vehicle is not going to blow up or anything, but sticking a piece of black electrical tape over it is definitely not the recommended course of action.


When the Multi-function Indicator Lamp (MIL light) lights up, it doesn’t automatically signal an exact issue. All of today’s cars are equipped with computers that monitor a number of different parameters, and when they recognize that something is not working properly, the MIL light comes on. There are literally hundreds of reasons why the ‘Check Engine Light’ comes on – ranging from a loose gas cap to a cracked hose or a worn catalytic converter. Further, both the engine and transmission have the capability of turning on this light when an issue has been identified.


As a general rule, a continuous MIL light often indicates a ‘hard fault’ or failure that has occurred, when the light goes on and off, the problem may be minor or intermittent, but when the MIL light is flashing it’s best to stop your car and have it towed into the dealership.


To begin the process of diagnosing why the Check Engine light is on, technicians will plug in a special scan tool that examines the on-board computers and picks up the vehicle’s present ‘fault codes’ – numeric codes that are generated when a problem is detected. These fault codes become the basis for analyzing the problem and can lead the technician to a specific issue with a sensor or component (i.e. the oxygen sensor). However oftentimes the fault codes only indicate that one of the vehicle's systems is operating outside of its normal paramaters, which then requires the technician to troubleshoot and test a number of different items to pinpoint the root cause. This is one of the numerous areas where factory trained technicians who are experts with specific brands of vehicles excel over mechanics who have to work on different cars all the time. Also, it can be a very time consuming process when a fault is intermittent or doesn’t occur at the time of the test and may require repeated attempts to resolve it, so be patient! 


Rest assured that if your vehicle’s Multi-function Indicator light illuminates, our service team is only a call away and will be here to help.



Posted by:
Taylor Moffitt at 9:46 AM
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Name: Taylor Moffitt
Posts: 19
Last Post: August 28, 2014


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