You’re driving like normal one day and suddenly it happens – the warning light on the dash comes on, alerting you to a problem with your vehicle.
All sorts of questions run through your head. Am I damaging anything by driving with the service engine light on? How soon should I bring the car to the mechanic?
Beck’s European has been working on Porsche, BMW, and Audi vehicles for over 40 years and we have the answers to your questions below.
Check Engine Light Meanings
The service engine light has two states and each has a different meaning:
- Solid Check Engine Light – If the warning light on your dash is solid that means that the computer has detected a problem – some aspect of the vehicle is not operating properly. It is generally still safe to drive, but you should have the vehicle serviced in the near future.
- Flashing Check Engine Light – A flashing check engine light indicates a more severe problem – the detected fault could harm one or more components of your vehicle. You should safely pull the car over and get the vehicle to a shop as soon as possible.
Should I Have It Towed?
You should have your vehicle towed if you are experiencing a flashing check engine light.
The flashing indicates a more severe problem and driving it could cause further damage to your vehicle. Safely pull the vehicle over, then have it towed to your auto shop.
Should I Bring It into the Shop?
In both cases – solid or flashing service engine light – you should bring the vehicle to the shop. The light is meant to alert you of potential problems before they become more serious (and more costly to fix).
The check engine light can indicate a wide range of problems, both minor and major. For example:
- A loose fuel cap, which is a minor problem.
- The need to replace a catalytic converter, a major problem.
- Problems related to the mass airflow sensor or oxygen sensor, wh over time can decrease your mileage between 25-40 percent.
Because of the range of potential problems – and how they can impact your car’s components and performance – it is always wise to seek an auto technician when the service engine light comes on.
How Do Check Engine Lights Work?
The check engine light is part of the onboard diagnostic system in your vehicle, which was introduced in the 1980s. The system was designed to alert the main computer when things aren’t working properly, and alert the driver via the service engine light.
Over the years the On-Board Diagnostic system has become more sophisticated; today it can monitor a variety of systems such as the engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, A/C or heater, navigation and more.
When the check engine light comes on, information about the problem is logged and stored in the computer to facilitate diagnosis.
Diagnosing the Problem
While some codes are fairly easy to zero in on, others can be exceptionally challenging. Decades of experience have taught us what to look for, and where most likely, the problem lies.
However, even when a systematic troubleshooting chain is followed, sometimes there is trial and error involved. There are nearly 1,000 codes which can occur in various combinations, so there is quite a bit of detective work to do.
That said, when you trust your vehicle to Beck’s European, you can count on over 40 years of experience in diagnosing and fixing car problems.
We use the best equipment available – Porsche factory system testers and AutoLogic Testers for Porsche, Audi and BMW.