Will it hurt my engine if I drive my car when the check engine light is on?

Engine Light

This is a question we get asked often at the Mississauga Kia service department. Unfortunately, it’s not one that’s easy to answer. The best answer we can usually give is “possibly.” As long as all of your vehicle’s essential systems (including lights and brakes) are operational, it should be safe. Keep a close eye on things like your coolant temperature, oil pressure, and watch for any other warning lights on your dash. If there are no other obvious issues, then it could be a minor problem, but it’s still important to get it diagnosed as quickly as possible.

If we don’t know the reason for your check engine light, then it’s hard to determine whether or not it’s safe to drive. But there are a few ways to check for the basic reasons that your check engine light could be on, and there are many cases where it should be safe enough for you to drive to get it diagnosed at your nearest dealership.

Most Common Causes for the Check Engine Light
It can be difficult to say why your check engine light is one without running an in-depth diagnostic, but there are a number of common reasons that could be the cause:

  • A Faulty O2 sensor – Your O2 sensor measures the oxygen in your exhaust system and tells your computer so it can adjust the air/fuel mixture of your engine. A faulty O2 sensor will reduce your fuel economy and increase your vehicle’s emissions, but it isn’t so dangerous that you shouldn’t be able to drive it to your nearest service station.
  • Loose Gas Cap – A loose gas cap will often cause your engine to throw an “evap” code, indicating that your fuel system has a vapour leak. If your gas cap is cracked, faulty, or loose, then it could cause this-but so could a more serious leak anywhere in the upper portion of your fuel system.
  • Failed Catalytic Converter – Your catalytic converter is an important emissions control in your exhaust system that converts carbon monoxide and other harmful gases into other byproducts. If your catalytic converter is failing, your gas mileage and performance will be suffering. Unfortunately, a catalytic converter is generally an expensive part, and best left to the job of a professional mechanic.
  • Faulty Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor – The mass air flow sensor is a component that helps your car’s computer determine how much fuel to add based on the amount of air coming into the motor. Most MAF sensors fail due to an improperly installed or dirty air filter. Some speculate that performance add-ons like oiled K&N filters may also contribute to MAF failures on certain models. It’s best to consult with your mechanic before making any modifications to your air intake system. While a faulty MAF sensor isn’t an emergency, you will notice a decrease in fuel economy, rough idle, and poor performance until you get it replaced.
  • Failed Spark Plugs – If your vehicle’s spark plugs haven’t been replaced according to the maintenance schedule in your manual, then they could fail. This is a relatively inexpensive job that you should get done right away if needed. A faulty ignition coil could also be the culprit, so it’s best to get your vehicle’s entire ignition system checked over if your check engine light is on.
  • Dead Battery or Fault in Charging System – If your battery is nearing the end of its life, or your charging system is no longer running efficiently, then this can also cause a check engine light. Get these replaced as soon as possible, as you don’t want to run into a situation where you need to jump start your car.

If your check engine light is on now, book a service appointment at Mississauga Kia or speak directly with one of our service professionals by calling us.

We’ll help you determine why your check engine light could be on, and we can easily book you in for a service to have your code read and cleared so it won’t be bothering you again! Our dealership is just a short drive from Oakville, Brampton, Milton, and anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area.