Check Engine Warning Light Explained

Last updated on June 8th, 2019 at 08:07 am

check engine warning light

The most frequent reaction to seeing the dreaded check engine warning light appear on the dashboard is that of dismay. Add to this our limited understanding of exactly what the yellow warning light means, and we generally rush to the nearest garage hoping it’s just a temporary glitch in the system.

When the engine light is yellow, the first thing to remember is, don’t panic!  It could mean that the problem isn’t urgent, but action is required.  However, it does mean that there is a problem to sort out as soon as possible.



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What does the ‘Check Engine` warning light mean?

Modern day cars are built with computers that monitor vehicle performance and potential problems.  The ‘Check Engine’ warning light is directly linked to this computer and could be diagnosing one of many issues.  The monitor was originally devised to measure the car`s emissions – if an issue is detected with the engine, its emissions will suffer, and therefore a clear indicator that there is a problem.

Does the yellow engine warning light indicate a serious problem?

It could also be a serious problem such as a bad catalytic converter or something as trivial as a loose petrol cap.  It’s worth checking this before taking your car to a mechanic or service centre as this is a common issue.

Check your petrol cap

When the petrol cap is loose, gas escapes and it shows as a fault in the vapour release system.  If it`s loose, tighten it up and this should resolve the problem.  It’s also worth noting that sometimes there’s a delay in the light turning off.  The most important thing is to not ignore it.

Detecting the Problem

The car engine computer has a standardised code which a well-trained mechanic will understand and therefore be able to diagnose the problem immediately.  It is also possible to purchase an inexpensive code reader that will be able to provide the same diagnostic.  Obviously, this won’t fix the problem but it will provide an indication of the issue prior to contacting your car repair service centre.


What to do If the yellow engine light comes on

If the ‘check engine’ light appears on your dashboard but your car seems to be running normally, check the petrol cap first.  If this isn’t the problem, then try using a decoder to determine the problem.  Unfortunately, these devices aren’t particularly easy to understand, even for those with a semi-mechanical brain.  It’s important that, unless you`re a qualified mechanic, you don’t try to fix the issue yourself, as this could aggravate the matter further. However, by using a decoder you’ll get an idea of the seriousness of the problem, and can confirm that the mechanic is on the right track with his diagnosis.

Cars are equipped with computers and warning lights to enable us to keep the vehicle working at an optimal level.  The warning lights indicate to us when there is a problem, however, large or small.  For this reason, as soon as a warning light appears, the best thing to do is get it checked by a mechanic.