Check Engine

What does a “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light mean?

Over the past 20 years, cars have become increasing dependent on their on-board diagnostic (OBD) systems to keep them running at peak efficiency. Your car’s OBD system is constantly checking the various computers that control a multitude of operations including engine idle speeds, fuel mixtures, emissions and engine performance. Whenever the computer controls cannot adjust for a problem, the OBD system records a trouble code and illuminates the warning light on your dash. Your car can detect major malfunctions as well as small irregularities, triggering the warning light to alert you before any serious damage or performance issues arise. Always pay attention to your Service Engine Soon light- your car is trying to tell you something!


What do I do when it comes on?

First, make sure all your gauges are in the normal ranges. Typically if there’s a serious situation like overheating or low oil pressure, the other dash warning lights will alert you before the OBD system detects the fault. Next, you should make time for a Parker Imports technician to take a closer look. We will retrieve the OBD trouble code and see what fault has been reported. We can identify whether the problem is as simple as a loose gas cap or if the problem requires more extensive testing. Our technicians are equipped with all the equipment, information and training needed to determine and correct the problem accurately.

How soon after the Check Engine Light comes on do I need to have my car serviced?

The good news is unless the light is flashing, you don’t need to stop and call a tow truck. While almost any maintenance issue will eventually lead to serious problems if left alone, the typical OBD fault issue should be checked out within a few days. In most late-model vehicles, if the fault requires immediate attention the light will flash or turn from yellow to red. That’s when you should pull over in a safe place and call for a tow.

My technician turned the light off and it came back on a week later. Why?

The Onboard Diagnostic (OBD) system is consistently performing a variety of “self-tests” to determine if your vehicle is working as efficiently and cleanly as possible. When a potential problem or failure is identified, the system will compensate if possible, and many of these tests are delayed or turned off. This is especially true if you have continued driving with the check engine light on for several days.

Once repairs are completed, the OBD system resumes its self-testing process, and some of these tests require specific conditions to provide thorough and accurate results. For example, one requires an 8 hour delay before starting the engine to provide accurate results while another requires the vehicle to be driven for several minutes above 50 mph. This is why the testing phase is so important to scheduling and conducting a proper repair the first time.

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns about your Check Engine or Service Engine lights, our specialists at Parker Imports will be happy to answers your questions. Stop in or call us today!