What to do When Your Check Engine Light Comes On

The check engine light is one of the most important signals your car can send you. There are actually a lot of ways your car communicates with you. From the shaking of the steering wheel to the sound of the engine, your car is designed to always be announcing how healthy it is. But the check engine light is special.

Whereas many problems your car can have are indicated by something very slight, the check engine light is one of the most obvious ways your car can tell you that something is wrong. As such, it is important to know what it means and what to do when it turns on. So, here is a guide to exactly that process.

Check Your Gas Cap

This is something that not everyone knows about, even among the people who know what the check engine light can indicate. It is the lowest stakes reason your check engine light might be on, so it is a good place to start if only to know whether or not it is time to worry. 

This is because the check engine light can indicate that your gas cap is loose. This means that once your check engine light comes on you should check this immediately. If your check engine light is no longer on afterward, then you can relax. It was something small. This is ideal, as usually, that light indicates danger.

Check to Make Sure it is Safe to Drive

If this is not the reason why your check engine light is on, then you definitely have a problem. Do not panic though—cars are usually able to be driven even after this light comes on. They should just only be driven to one place, and that is direct to a mechanic to receive a full diagnostic.

Before you do that, however, you should check to make sure everything is good under the hood. You will want to be looking at two things under the hood: The engine and the coolant system. You do not need to know what you are looking at; you just need to look for two things: Gas, and broken plastic.

You need to look for gas visible on or around the engine. If there is gas on or around the engine, then a leak has been sprung in the fuel line that might make the car unsafe to drive. The broken plastic will come from the coolant system. If the coolant system is ruptured, your engine can overheat while you drive.

In either of these cases, it is probably better to get your car towed than risk driving it.

Get to a Mechanic

When it comes to the check engine light, do not assume that the problem is something you can DIY out of your car. The check engine light is the way it is because it indicates serious problems with a seriously complicated piece of machinery. 

Remember, the engine was not designed by one smart person, but many geniuses over many years. You are neither expected nor recommended to try and figure it out without training. Get to a mechanic. Stay safe. And if you need any help, Village Autoworks will be there to lend a hand.