Is it Safe to Drive with the Engine Light On?

Anytime the diagnostics system of your car detects a problem, either with the sensors or any component linked with the diagnostic system, the check engine light will come on.

Most drivers tend to ignore the check engine light if their car does not display any serious trouble while running.

However, we strongly recommend that if the check engine light flashes on your dashboard that you have it checked up as soon as possible. Here are our immediate recommendations if you see your check engine light come on.

-If the check engine light is red and flashing, you should not drive your car. Call a tow truck and have it towed to a reputable auto repair shop.

-If the check engine light is on and yellow, drive your car to a reputable auto repair shop.

Whatever you decide to do, either having your car towed to a shop or driving it in yourself, don’t ignore flashing check engine lights!

So, why, or more importantly, when does the check engine light come on? Here are five possible issues/problems that can lead to a flashing check engine light.

5 Common Reasons for a Flashing Check Engine Light

Although there is a wide range of reasons why this happens, there are five common factors behind a check engine light coming on. These include the following.

1. An Issue with the Gas Cap

If the gas cap of the fuel system is damaged in any way, the check engine light will flash. The gas cap seals the fuel system – if it is broken or not sealed properly or even if it is missing, you could end up losing fuel a lot faster due to evaporation.

2. Faulty or Damaged Oxygen Sensors

The job of the oxygen sensor is to keep a track on the amount of oxygen in the fuel system that goes unburned – if the oxygen sensor cannot track the amount of oxygen, your fuel economy suffers.

This could also damage your catalytic converter and spark plug. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road during a southern Arizona summer. And this could happen if either of these important vehicle components goes haywire.

3. Faulty Mass airflow (MAF) Sensor

For an engine to run on an optimal level, it is important for the engine control unit to regulate the necessary amount of fuel required to run the engine. The job of the mass airflow sensor is to track the volume of air entering the engine.

If your MAF sensor is faulty, it affects your fuel economy and can reduce engine performance. If the issue is not fixed on time, the damage from a faulty MAF could extend to the oxygen sensor, the spark plugs, and your car’s catalytic converter.

4. Failing Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter in your car converts the carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. So, if your catalytic converter is failing, again, engine performance suffers as does your fuel economy. A car with a faulty catalytic converter could also fail emissions tests.

5. Bad Spark Plug and Wires

Ignition happens when the spark plugs and spark wires ignite the air-fuel mixture in the internal combustion chamber – the spark is then transferred to the plugs from the ignition coils.

A problem with the spark plugs or ignition coils will affect the engine performance and could cause damage to the oxygen sensors and the catalytic converter.

Can I Continue Driving If My Check Engine Light Comes On?

There are a couple of things you should assess before continuing to drive after a check engine light comes on.

Are there any abnormal sounds or is the car surging or bucking? Is your dashboard lighting up with other signals such as low oil pressure or overheating?

If you have just driven away after refueling, stop and check your gas cap – as mentioned above, a loose gas cap can lead to a flashing check engine light.

If you find that the running of your car is not impacted in any way either with the above-mentioned issues or any other issue, you can continue driving. It could be a relatively low risk issue such as a faulty sensor.

However, don’t ignore the problem for long. Have it checked as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

If, however, there is a noticeable difference in your car performance, do the following:

-Drop your speed.

-Try and unburden any excess weight if possible.

-Try not to burden your car engine – it is best to avoid erratic gear shifting, sudden and hard braking or accelerating.

-Any action that places unnecessary strain on your engine should be avoided. 

-Drive up to your nearest car service center and have the issue checked.

Too Much Risk

Keep in mind that if you continue running your car while the check engine light is flashing, it could lead to serious engine damage – and repairing an engine can burn a big hole in your wallet!

Car Technicians You Can Trust!

Are you facing any kind of car trouble? Or are you looking for reliable car maintenance service? We can help. Give Accurate Service a call today at 520-620-9129 or schedule an appointment online!