You're driving along and that dreaded check engine light pops up. What does it mean, and how urgent is it? Read on to find out more:
You Never Know Until You Investigate
Check engine lights are a catch-all warning signal that something's wrong with your engine. A word of caution: don't assume there's something minor (or major) wrong with the engine until you have a professional check it out. It could be something very inexpensive, like a spark plug or a blown fuse that's easy to fix, or something major.
Code Readers Are Your Friend
Want to get a sense of what's wrong with your car before you choose an auto repair shop? You could always buy a code reader for your vehicle. The code readers communicate with your car's engine to get the maintenance codes it's displaying. A check engine light simply tells the mechanic that your car is recording a maintenance code. Once the code reader gets the code, you can look it up in your user manual or online. While the auto repair shop might charge $100 to perform the diagnostic, with a code reader, you can do them yourself.
Do You Notice Any Signs of Trouble?
While you can't assume that your car is fine just because you don't hear or see trouble, there is a lot of value in looking for visible signs of a problem. If you see or smell fumes, or you hear strange noises coming from the engine, that's a sign that the engine is in bad shape.
So, How Urgent Is Auto Repair After a Check Engine Light?
The best thing you can do to answer this question is to get the code reader or visit an auto services specialist to tell you what the warning light means. The mechanic at your auto repair shop can give you an estimate of damages, tell you how long the car can hold out without the needed repair, and tell you about the possible consequences of not getting the car fixed. Or, in some cases, the mechanic will point out that the check engine light came on for a fluke reason, such as low 12-volt battery power. Either way, you always want to prioritize getting some kind of a knowledgeable diagnosis after you see this dashboard light since it can sometimes be a life-threatening auto maintenance problem that led to the light coming on.