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What Does the Check Engine Light Really Mean?

Many of us are guilty of driving with our check engine light on. If nothing seems to be wrong with the vehicle, we might assume that there’s no real reason to get it checked. Or, we may not feel like spending money for potential repairs. But this is what we need to keep in mind: The sooner you address why the light is on, the less money you are going to spend to fix a potential problem.

Why does the light come on in the first place?

Consider your illuminated check engine light to be giving you a message: “Hey, I have a problem!”

If the light is on, this means that the computer system in your vehicle has detected a problem three times. Think of it like a patient and a doctor. If you have a nagging cough that just won’t go away, you are going to go to the doctor to see how you can get rid of the cough. In the same sense, when the check engine light comes on, your car has a nagging problem and you need a doctor—in this case, a professional auto technician—to tell you how to fix it.

When you bring your car to an auto repair shop like Rad Air, the first thing we do is connect your car to our computer system to see which code trigged the check engine light to come on. There are more than 2,500 codes that can set a check engine light. This code will help us determine the problem and further diagnostics will pinpoint exactly what is wrong with your vehicle.

In some cases, the light might come on for a minor issue: a loose gas cap, a dirty air filter, a bad sensor or a corroded connector. In other cases, the light might be on for a major issue, like an overheating engine. That’s the thing: With the check engine light, you just don’t know how serious the problem is until you get your car checked. If you wait, you could be causing severe damage to your vehicle—and putting yourself at a safety risk while continuing to drive the vehicle.

The next time your check engine light comes on, don’t delay. Bring your vehicle to your local Rad Air.