What To Do If Your Check Engine Light Comes On
The check engine light in your vehicle may come on for a wide variety of reasons, and sometimes narrowing down the cause is challenging. The light is tied to many different sensors, and often it will come on to warn you that you need to take your car to an auto repair shop to have it checked out.
Driving With a CEL Activation
The CEL (check engine light) may activate for many reasons, and if the car is still running, you may be able to drive the vehicle without causing any damage to it. Some sensors that will activate the light are warnings for things like a vacuum leak or air and fuel mix sensors that are not working quite right.
The biggest concern is that the CEL is trying to tell you something, and it needs to be checked. But if the car is running okay, often driving to an auto repair shop that can read the error codes from the engine's computer is okay. Some errors are none critical, and people drive with the light on for weeks or even months, but if the light comes on suddenly, it should be checked before assuming it is not important.
Checking the Codes
When you take your car to the auto repair shop to have the check engine light investigated, the technician will use a code reader that plugs into the OBDII (On-Board Diagnostics) port under the dash to access the computer. The faults come up in coded messages that indicate problems in specific systems but rarely point to one item.
For instance, an EVAP code only indicates a failure in the exhaust gas recirculation and evaporation system. It can be as simple as a bad seal on the fuel cap causing a vacuum leak in the system. Other times, a code indicates a specific issue like the oxygen season on the right side of the car in the third position.
The simplest way to sort out where the issue is occurring is to take the car to a shop that can read and decipher those codes for you.
Resetting the CEL
Once the check engine light has activated on your vehicle, resetting it requires a specific tool and knowing how to reset it in the system. If you do make repairs to the system that triggered the CEL in the first place, it will eventually come back on to let you know the problem still exists.
In states that require emissions testing, an active CEL can be grounds for an immediate failure of the test even before the tech tests the emissions coming out of the car. If the check engine light is on, making the repairs to the vehicle is the best way to ensure it is safe dependable to drive.
Contact a local auto repair shop for more information.