Maryland Driver: Is Your Check Engine Light On?

by derekpricedotnet on September 21, 2011

If your Check Engine light is on, don’t hit the panic button, but don’t ignore it either.

It’s a small rectangle hidden among the gauges clustered on the instrument panel behind the steering wheel. It flashes briefly when you turn the ignition on– along with other system checks like anti-lock brakes – to let you know the system is ready to do it’s prescribed job.After briefly flashing at startup indicating all is well, it is blank and dormant as you drive happily on your way. Then one day, inexplicably, it glows yellow and warns “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” or displays a yellow engine symbol.What do you check and why? The engine often shows no obvious signs of anything except running down the road in quiet contentment.

When the onboard diagnostic system determines that a problem exists, the computer illuminates the yellow dashboard indicator. This light serves to inform the driver that a problem has been detected and vehicle service is needed.Onboard diagnostics assess engine misfire situations, the most severe of which indicates the possibility of catalytic converter damage. When this occurs, the yellow light will blink on and off repeatedly.Don’t hit the panic button and stop the car when the yellow message starts flashing. However it is important to reduce the speed of the vehicle, and take it for service as soon as possible. The vehicle should not be driven for long distances with the light flashing.

The system is also continuously checking information from the engine and transmission sensors against data stored in its memory. When one of the hundreds of possible faults is found, the yellow indicator comes on and stays on. This can mean many things, from a sensor fault to a fouled spark plug.  The continuous light tells the driver that something is wrong, and to bring the vehicle in for service. This is not an emergency situation. However, don’t drive for more than a few days with the light on. The glitches that activate the “Check Engine” light are often nothing a driver can readily detect, but that doesn’t mean everything is working properly. There can be a condition that wastes fuel, shortens engine life, or could lead to expensive repairs if left unaddressed. And, since the condition is usually emission related, the level of pollutants coming from the tailpipe can soar.

So if your “Check Engine” light comes on, don’t hit the panic button, but don’t ignore it either. Call your friends at Motor World in Marlow Heights, at (301) 899-1705!

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