What Does My Check Engine Light Mean?

car panel instrument red speedometer and tachometer

There's always that momentary panic when you see the yellow-orange glow of your engine light. But before you panic, consider what your check engine light actually means. It might not be as bad as you suspect! It could be something as simple as a loose gas cap, or it could indicate the failure of something more important.

Why check engine light comes on? 

It's time to answer the all-important question: Why has your check engine light come on? The check engine light essentially means that your vehicle's onboard computer system has self-diagnosed some kind of problem. This problem can be anything from a momentary hiccup, something like a loose gas cap or a change in humidity, to the failure of a major component like a bad catalytic converter. Occasionally, the Check Engine light comes on when nothing is wrong with the car.

It could be a temporary problem caused by a tank of bad gas or a range of other factors. In such cases, the light should go off by itself after a short time. However, when it comes to the Check Engine light, do-it-yourself interpretations can be a little tricky even for the mechanically inclined, as there's no real way of determining the cause of the light without running a diagnostic scan on the system.

The list of things that can trigger the check engine light is pretty lengthy but first things first if the light comes on, you should first check to see if the gas cap is loose as a loose cap sends an error message to the car's computer, reporting a leak in the vapour recovery system. If the gas cap is loose, tighten it and continue driving. Even after tightening, it will take some time for the light to go off.

The check engine light is most commonly caused by one of five factors; the O2 sensor, a loose gas cap, the catalytic converter, the mass airflow sensor or the vehicle's spark plug wires. Most of which are rather inexpensive problems to repair.

However, while sometimes the light can be caused by little more than a faulty oxygen sensor, if the light begins flashing then it is indicating a more serious problem, in which case please book a Service Appointment and we'd be happy to provide the solution you need.

Check Engine Light vs. Maintenance Required Light

Many drivers confuse the maintenance required light (MAINT REQD) for the Check Engine light, but these are not the same. The maintenance required light is simply indicating that the car is due for an oil change or other routine servicing. Your Check Engine light will either be orange, yellow, or red, depending on the manufacturer, and it will either be the words 'CHECK ENGINE' or it will be shaped like an engine.

Not everyone happens to have an OBDII reader (On-Board Vehicle Diagnostics) sitting in their glove compartment. If you don't, you can easily drop into Mississauga Kia's service department and have us reset your engine light for you while you wait. Book your Service Appointment online, and we'll get back to you right away.