Auto Repair in Mint Hill – Why is my Check Engine Light On?

Check engine light. Car dashboard in closeup.

Check Engine Light

Picture yourself driving down the street, as you’ve done a million times before on your way to work. An orange glow his your peripheral vision, so you look down, and sure enough, it’s a Check Engine Light. This is a scenario we’ve all most likely found ourselves in at one point or another. The Check Engine Light is probably the most well-known light on the dashboard, and rightfully so. However, the light is not perfect. It may come on, but it won’t tell you why. Today, we’ll debunk some of the most commonly asked questions about the Check Engine Light.

What is a Check Engine Light?

The official term for a Check Engine Light is “Malfunction Indicator Lamp” or “MIL” for short. The light is a device used by all modern cars as to warn the driver that something important has happened within the engine or components connected to it. The modern MIL is required by law on every car sold after January 1st, 1996. Many cars before this date have them, but not all.

What does a Check Engine Light Do?

The Check Engine Light specifically comes on if something the vehicle’s On Board Diagnostic (OBD) system deems immediately important.

Can I tell why it came on?

In On Board Diagnostic Second Generation (OBD-II) – equipped in vehicles made after 1/1/1996, no, with the lone exception of Honda. In On Board Diagnostic First Generation (OBD-I) – equipped in early 80’s to some 1995 vehicles, yes.

OBD-I Cars are not designed to be read by computers, so when the light comes on, it will blink to tell you the code. (for example, blink, pause, blink-blink means “12” as blink, pause, blink-blink-blink means “13”)

OBD-II Cars are designed to be read and scanned by computers, so the only way to tell why the light came on is to use a scan tool, a plug-in device like Hum, or a computer designed to read codes such as a State Inspection Machine. The lone exception to this rule is Honda, as many of their cars carried over the blink/pause function of OBD-I.

What does my Check Engine Light look like?

Most Check Engine Lights look like the picture below:

Most forms of Check Engine Lights look like these.

Check Engine Lights

What should I do if my check engine light comes on?

It is highly recommended that you visit an auto shop upon the light coming on. Though there can be false positives (leaving your gas cap loose can cause it to come on, for example), the light is intended to only come on in situations that are especially important, and usually can only be shut off by a shop with code reading technology, unless it is designed to go off by itself.

Can I pass a NC State Inspection with a Check Engine Light on?

No, unless a waiver has been awarded by the state.

What happens once my Check Engine Light has been diagnosed?

Once the cause of the light coming on is determined, the issue is repaired by your local auto shop,and then the light is reset. Manchester Auto and Tire of Mint Hill, LLC. can handle all your Check Engine Light needs from diagnosis to repair. Feel free to call at 704-545-4597.

Ken Manchester