Are Lights the Only Thing the OBD Uses to Warn the Driver of Issues?

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If your car was manufactured after 1996, it has an OBD II system that monitors emissions and other systems on board. While it’s primarily focused on emissions, it can also report other problems that are only peripherally related to emissions (engine misfires, for instance). It communicates any potential problems to the driver through a single light in the dash – the Check Engine Light, also called the MIL or Malfunction Indicator Lamp.

Is the Check Engine Light the only connected light?

Yes. The only way your OBD system has to communicate with you is through the Check Engine Light. What’s more, the other lights in your dash are NOT connected to the OBD system (although advanced scan tools can access the car’s computer and read many of these trouble codes via the OBD II connector under the dash).

Common reasons the Check Engine Light is illuminated

If your Check Engine Light flashes on right after the engine cranks, and then turns off again, this is normal. This is the self-check procedure, and the OBD system letting you know that it’s operating.

If the Check Engine Light comes on and stays on, it means that the computer has identified a problem that has some sort of impact on emissions or engine control. These can range from engine misfires to failed oxygen sensors, dead catalytic converters and even a loose gas cap. You’ll need to have the code pulled by a mechanic to begin the diagnostic process and determine the cause of the problem.

If the Check Engine Light comes on and begins flashing, it means that your engine may be experiencing significant misfires, and that the catalytic converter could overheat as a result, causing a fire. You should immediately stop the car and have a mechanic diagnose and repair the problem.

While the OBD system can only use the Check Engine Light to communicate with you, it’s vital that you pay attention to that light and know what to do.


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Matthew

31 years of experience
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Matthew
31 years of experience
Jeep Patriot - Check Engine Light is on - Norfolk, Virginia
Matthew was on time which was a relief, he is very knowledgeable and was easy to understand what was wrong and what was being done. I am recommending to friends and family due to the great experience Matthew gave me. Extremely professional 10/10
Mercedes-Benz E320 - Check Engine Light is on - Williamsburg, Virginia
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41 years of experience
Chevrolet Cruze - Check Engine Light is on Inspection - Phoenix, Arizona
I requested Your Mechanic’s services due to my check engine light coming on. Peter showed up early and was able to diagnose and fix the issue in a timely manner. Peter was also very pleasant and I was charged a fair price for the repair. I’ve also had Peter fix my car on two previous occasions and I was very pleased with his services those times as well. I would definitely recommend him to fix your car as well!

Arturo

25 years of experience
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Arturo
25 years of experience
Toyota Matrix - Check Engine Light is on - San Diego, California
Absolutely Excellent. He can answer any inquiries I had and very knowledgeable. Also very helpful and genuine. In addition he gave good recommendations on my car care. I am very glad I found "your mechanic".

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13 years of experience
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13 years of experience
Ford Fusion - Check Engine Light is on - Riverside, California
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