Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Is It Safe to Drive with the Check Engine Light On?

The Check Engine Light is tied into your car’s emissions system, and it’s designed to light up whenever something goes wrong with this complex collection of components and sensors. Is it safe to drive with the Check Engine light on?

  • If it comes on while driving: If the Check Engine Light comes on while you’re driving, it can be unnerving. Don’t panic, though. Take a moment to see if the car is driving any differently than normal. Is it bucking? Surging? Are there any unusual sounds? If nothing seems out of the ordinary, you can continue driving the car. It could be anything from a failed oxygen sensor to a bad MAF sensor. It could also mean that your catalytic converter has given up the ghost.

Regardless, you’re safe to drive for now as long as the car isn’t performing strangely. Just have the Check Engine Light checked and the problem repaired. Not repairing the problem can lead to more serious damage down the road (a failed oxygen sensor can eventually lead to catalytic converter damage, which is far more expensive to replace).

  • If it comes on after fueling up: While many current models have a “loose gas cap light”, older models didn’t come with this feature. If you left the gas cap loose or off, the computer would detect a leak in the evaporative emissions system and turn on the Check Engine Light. If the light comes on shortly after fueling up, check your gas cap. Take it off, and then re-install it. Drive the car for a while and see if the light goes out (note that it may take a couple of restarts of the engine to make the light go out).

If your car’s Check Engine Light is on, it means that there’s a problem somewhere in your emissions system. YourMechanic can check the codes that are stored in the car’s computer, make recommendations, and even provide repairs or part replacements.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

How to Find the Keyless Code on a Ford Explorer or Mercury Mountaineer
Many Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers were manufactured with an option known as the Ford keyless entry keypad. Some models refer to it as SecuriCode as well. It...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...
How to Get a Louisiana Driver's Permit
s licensing program. The first step in this program is to obtain...


Related questions

Q: Why Is it so Important That a Car Passes Emissions Testing?

Emissions testing provides several very useful functions for our daily lives. The combustion gases that come out of the tailpipes of our vehicles are comprised of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2), and oxygen...

Q: Engine Light came on

All of those issues will need to be addressed one-at-a-time. There could be one root problem, or several independent ones. The first step would be to scan the engine and transmission computer for codes. The codes set will give direction...

Q: My 96 Jeep Cherokee Classic does not start up when it has been sitting for hours or overnight

Hello. The symptoms you describe can be caused by a wide variety of issues. Issues with the fuel and engine management systems can often produce these symptoms. A few things I would look at are the fuel pressure, fuel pump,...