What is a Check Engine Light?

service engine soon warning light

Why is my check engine or service engine soon turned on? In this guide we talk about what this is associated with this notorious light, what it is used for and what you should do about it. Car manufactures have conveniently designed a check engine, MIL or service engine warning light to tell you one of the many sensors, powertrain or emissions systems is having a problem.

Anytime this light comes on immediately check for other warning signs such as the engine temperature gauge, oil pressure or coolant level warning lights, more times than not it is safe to keep driving unless you smell, feel or hear something abnormal.

If you feel the engine is not running correctly without making abnormal noises, you should still be able to make it to your destination, especially if the problem is a simple engine misfire, this also can be applied to the transmission operation. If you plan to take the car into a shop for repairs it's a good idea to retrieve the code yourself and identify it. This will help you see what you may be in for, and the cost associated with such a repair.

Our experts can help you with the repair cost, or give you instructions on how to fix the problem yourself for free. Some codes are simple, such as a loose gas cap, or a gas cap seal that has failed, in which case a quick trip to the auto parts or Amazon store can easily fix the problem.

It is normal for this warning light to come on when the key is in the on position without the engine running, along with the other warning lights located inside the instrument cluster. After the engine starts all warning lights should go out after about 5 seconds with the exception of the parking brake warning light if you have not released it.

Watch the Video!

Please watch this video to help you decide if the car is safe to drive with the check engine light on.


Our certified technicians are ready to answer car repair questions for free. We hope you saved money and learned from this guide. We are creating a full set of repair guides. Please subscribe to our 2CarPros YouTube channel and check back often for new videos which are uploaded regularly.

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