The check engine light is part of a built in computerized system, so you should not ignore it. It is important to not confuse the check engine soon light with the service engine light because they have different meanings than the check engine light. The maintenance is required when a service engine soon light illuminates at a given mileage to let you know that a vehicle service is needed.
The check engine light is now required to monitor a number of different emissions factors, including the exhaust that comes out of the engine. It can even monitor the exhaust again as it is exiting the catalytic converter. These newer systems are so precise that the check engine light may come on if the gas cap is not tight enough. Also the light will come on if there is a leak anywhere in the fuel system.
Two very serious visible warnings to look for are whether or not the light is red versus yellow and if the light is blinking versus staying solid. A red check engine light means you should not be driving the vehicle at all. If the light is blinking this is also a serious problem. The main reason the light comes on like this is if there was a malfunction in the vehicle’s emission control system. If the check engine light comes on and stays on, but is not blinking or red, then you can check for a couple more signs. Listen to the engine while it is idling and when you accelerate. If it makes any odd noises or has performance issues, this means there is a failure somewhere in the emissions control system. Finally, check your gas cap. Make certain it is tight and try turning the car off and back on again. This may help reset the light. In some cases, it may even take a couple of short rides to get the light to reset.
By bringing the vehicle in at the first sign, you can help reduce the chance of further wear and tear on the vehicle. You can also decrease the chance of a costly repair bill in the long run. No matter what you notice, make sure to schedule an appointment so we can inspect it for you.