Don’t Ignore that ‘Check Engine’ Light

By Jack Shields, JAX Auto & Tire

So, there’s a “check engine” or “service engine soon” light on your car. What does it mean? What do you do? Do not consider this your “ignore me” light.

Your vehicle is equipped with a series of small computers that control the majority of its functions. Some of these control units have warning lights for their specific system, such as the anti-lock braking system, traction control, airbags and tire pressure. It’s the electronic control module (ECM) that turns on your check engine light.

The ECM monitors more than 400 controls and sensors as soon as the engine is started. The check engine light indicates that the ECM has recognized a minimum of two consecutive faults in a certain system. When the light comes on, the ECM then generates a code that shows what system is experiencing a fault.

A code reading is not a diagnosis or a test. It is simply a code that tells where the fault might be found. Some codes are very specific and tell your auto technician exactly where to test. Some codes are very vague and give only a lead as to where an issue might be. Sometimes there are multiple codes, and each has to be treated as an individual issue.

This is where much confusion comes to the typical auto owner, and there are many myths. The check engine light is not timed to coincide with a specific mileage. You might think it’s just your gas cap. It could be, but that’s very rare. Maybe you think you can just ignore the light. That’s not a good idea, because a small, inexpensive problem now can lead to a much more serious and costly problem later on. Auto parts stores will be happy to read your codes at no charge, but the best they can do is to sell you parts that might fix the problem.

What it boils down to is this: if you see that light come on, do not ignore it. You rely on your vehicle for your family and your livelihood. Contact your trusted auto technician and have your vehicle properly tested and repaired. You’ll be better off in the long run. ❚

JAX Auto & Tire is located at 5220 S. Illinois Rt. 31, in Crystal Lake, (815) 526-3552.