Why Does My Check Engine Light Keep Coming On?

You’re driving along and you hear a ding. You look at your dashboard and see your check engine light has come on. You feel a sense of dread but it turns off as quickly as it came on. You breathe a sigh of relief and move forward, singing along to your favorite song. It happens again later and then the next day. Why does it keep coming on? It’s turning off so it must be a short, right? Ideal Automotive says not necessarily. Here’s why.

Why the Check Engine Light Comes On

Your check engine light is your vehicle’s catch-all when it comes to dashboard warning lights. You have other warning lights and gauges for specific systems, such as the anti-lock brake system and the radiator, but the check engine light is designed to illuminate if there are problems not covered by these alerts. This means that unless there is an electrical problem, which there could be, your check engine light has come on because there is something about which you should be concerned.

Specific Issues

On some automobile makes and models, the check engine will come on if preventative maintenance is due. You may also have a service engine light that illuminates. The service engine light is designed to remind drivers that maintenance is due once the vehicle hits mileage milestones. Whether you have one or both, the light deserves your attention, so don’t ignore it or you may damage your vehicle’s engine. If the check light comes on, you may have the following wrong with your automobile:

  • Catalytic converter cannot convert carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide
  • Fuel cap is loose or the seal is broken
  • Mass airflow sensor cannot measure air/fuel mixture
  • Oxygen sensor cannot measure unburned oxygen
  • Spark plugs or plug wires need to be replaced

You may experience other signs that clue you in on the above problems aside from your check engine light. For example, if the catalytic converter is on the fritz, you will notice a rotten-egg smell and/or your vehicle might overheat. If your spark plugs are due for replacement, your vehicle will miss or stall. Reduced fuel efficiency is also a sign there is something wrong. Don’t ignore these warnings. You know how your vehicle should run and if it isn’t running that way, something is wrong.

If your check engine light comes on, Ideal Automotive in Blaine, MN, would be happy to run a diagnostic check to find the problem.


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