Safe to Drive with a Check Engine Light

When your car's check engine comes on the first thing you think of is my car still safe to drive? This is a valid point because in some instances the car will be fine while other times it's trying to tell you have a bigger problem at hand. The main subject here is that you don't want to cause additional damage to your car and you don't want to be left stranded somewhere if it can be avoided. So we have divided the following guide to two scenarios. Safe to drive and not save to drive, please read below:

Safe to Drive

If the warning light comes on there are basically two different scenarios to look for. First, if nothing seems to be wrong with the engine or transmission and the car is driving okay it most likely means a non-evasive sensor has failed or a simple mechanical failure is present such as a small vacuum leak. You can continue driving without additional damage to any components. This is because the computer is equipped with a predetermined value for every sensor which enables the engine to keep running without issue. The computer will store this problem in the form of a trouble code. This gives you time to get the car to the repair garage or read the codes yourself and perform the repairs.

Not Safe to Drive

The next set of situations are either right before or just after the check engine light has come on and you have started to hear or feel something funny in the way the engine or transmission is operating. The first thing to look for is the reading on the engine temperature gauge or if the engine temperature warning light is on. In this case you must pull over in a safe area and shut the car off. This will save the engine from serious internal damage. If you can feel the engine miss firing it can cause the catalytic converter to overheat and melt internally due to the un-burnt fuel being processed which will require a catalytic converter replacement.

Prolonged engine misfires can also cause engine damage as well. If the engine is making noise you will need to judge if the noise is loud enough to pull over right away or keep driving. This can depend on where you are when this happens, you must determine a safe place to park or continue on the road. In some cases engine problems can be causing metal shrapnel to be spread throughout the engine oil and will start to damage the entire engine if not repaired immediately.

The car's computer monitors the automatic transmission operation and can tell if the transmission is slipping. This could be due to a lose of fluid in which case if you continue to drive the transmissions can burn up which would require a full transmission rebuild.

Personal safety should be your biggest concern. If you must pull over search Google for the closest tow truck company using your phone, also check their reviews. Likewise do the same for a repair garage in your area. These will ultimate the need for a third party company recommendations.

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Got Any Questions?

If you have any questions about a check engine light, please visit our forum. If you need car repair advice, please ask our community of mechanics who are happy to help. Our service is always 100% free. 

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