What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

Back to Blog
Check engine light on car dashboard


Today’s car is nothing like the car of yesterday. From cars that can now brake when the driver is not paying attention, to the back-up cameras that will be installed on all new vehicles by 2020, today’s automobile is an engineering marvel. The same design and engineering that makes a car look great, is the same genius that in the car’s computer.

Your car is a network. Much like the computer network that you use in your home, everything is connected. This network controls everything from theft deterrence to the driver’s seating position. The most important network by far though, has to the engine control module. 

The engine control module (ECM) monitors and controls every aspect your vehicle’s engine performance. Additionally, the ECM monitors the emissions parameters from sensors and controls that are not directly involved in the engine’s performance.

When the Check Engine Light (CEL) comes on, there has been a failure of one of the monitored parameters. If the car is running smoothly, it is likely but not necessarily, an emissions related failure.

Can I Drive With the Check Engine Light On?

People are always coming into our shop with the same questions. “Is it safe for me to drive with my check engine light on?” The answer is yes in most circumstances. However, you should get this repaired as soon as it is possible. Delaying the repair can have negative effects on your car’s performance and the fuel economy.

Check Engine Light is Flashing

If you Check Engine Light is flashing, you will want to get this fixed immediately. When the CEL flashes, there is a potentially damaging condition, that if left unrepaired, will result in an even more expensive fix down the road.

The mechanics at Hi Star Auto Center are the best when it comes to diagnosing and repairing these control systems. If your check engine light is on or flashing, bring it in to our staff and let us get you back on your way.