The check engine light is part of the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system. Since the 1980s, computers increasingly have controlled and monitored vehicle performance, regulating such variables as engine speed, fuel mixture, and ignition timing. In some vehicles, the computer also tells the automatic transmission when to shift. When it finds a problem in the electronic-control system that it cannot correct, the computer turns on a yellow warning indicator that is labeled check engine, service engine soon, or check powertrain. The light may be nothing more than a picture of an engine, known as the International Check Engine Symbol.
If the check engine light illuminates, it will either blink or remain constant, depending on the problem. Either way, you should have the vehicle checked by a mechanic, although a blinking light or, on some cars, a red light instead of a yellow/orange light indicates a problem that needs immediate attention. In late-model cars, a blinking light usually indicates an engine misfire so severe that unburned fuel is being dumped into the exhaust system, where it can quickly damage the catalytic converter, requiring an expensive repair. If that happens, you should reduce power and have the car or truck looked at as soon as possible. If the light is steady, the problem is not an emergency, but you should schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If you notice the check engine light turns on, look for any serious problems that might cause the issue. Check the dashboard for any other lights that might illuminate as well. Another tip to do is to tighten the gas cap. This may resolve the check engine light that is on. You can also bring the vehicle in and we can inspect it for any issues that it might have. This can get you back to a safe and pleasant driving experience when you travel.