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Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Vehicle’s Check Engine Light

check engine lightHave you noticed your vehicle’s check engine light shining on your dashboard? If you are like many drivers, you may have chosen to ignore it. However, failing to have the problem checked out can lead to serious engine damage and expensive repairs.

The check engine light indicates that one of your vehicle’s systems is not functioning properly and that the problem needs to be addressed. Even if your car seems to be running normally, the ignition, fuel injection, or emission control may not be operating properly.

The check engine light on your vehicle is part of its onboard diagnostics (OBD) system. If your car’s computer finds a problem with the electronic-control system that it cannot correct on its own, it turns on a warning indicator light and also stores a “trouble code” in its memory that identifies the source of the problem. A diagnostic computer at an auto repair shop can read the code when the vehicle is brought in for service.

Because the computer will try to compensate for the problem, you may not notice any deterioration in performance when the check engine light is on. However, your fuel economy will suffer and your vehicle’s emissions will climb to unacceptable levels.

If you notice the light flashing, the problem is more serious and you should have your vehicle looked at by a qualified professional immediately in order to prevent severe damage. In late-model cars, a blinking check engine light typically indicates a severe engine misfire.

Despite the potential serious ramifications of ignoring a check engine light, research indicates that the light is on in nearly one out of every ten vehicles on the road. While you don’t need to immediately pull over to the side of the road when the light comes on, you should take measures to have your vehicle checked out as soon as possible to avoid causing more damage.