Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Q: What does the Malfunction Indicator lamp on the dash mean?

asked by on

What does the Malfunction Indicator lamp on the dash mean?

A: Whether you call it by its proper name, or ...

Whether you call it by its proper name, or refer to it as the Check Engine Light, the Malfunction Indicator lamp (MIL) is a very critical warning system. It’s designed to turn on when something goes wrong with your emissions system. It could be something as simple as leaving the gas cap loose, or it could be something more serious – a failed oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, or something else. The Malfunction Indicator lamp should come on when you crank the car, and should go out within a few seconds after conducting a self-test. If it stays on or comes on while driving, it means there’s a code in the computer that needs to be checked.

If the light comes on and stays steady, it means there’s a problem with the emissions system. However, if it comes on and blinks, it means that your engine has experienced

a misfire and you need to have it inspected as soon as possible.

Was this answer helpful?

Need advice from certified mechanic? Get help now!

Over 1000 mechanics are ready to answer your question.
The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Get an instant quote for your car

Our certified mechanics come to you ・Backed by 12-month, 12,000-mile guarantee・Save up to 30%

Get a quote

What others are asking

Q: Noises coming from under the dash

Hello. The specific causes are numerous and have been set forth in numerous Technical Service Bulletins for your vehicle model. They are also dependent on VIN number. A mechanic would have to systemically rule out each cause in order to...

Q: What does the Malfunction Indicator Lamp or Check Engine light mean on?

There are several warning indicator lights on the vehicle dashboard. The purpose of these lights are to alert drivers of an engine or transmission malfunction/error, or that attention to a specific component is necessary. There are numerous other warning...

Q: What does the StabiliTrak off light mean?

The StabiliTrack off light is located on your instrument panel. When the StabiliTrack system has been turn off, the StabiliTrack off light will illuminate. Tip The StabiliTrack of light will briefly illuminate when the car is turned on. When the...

Related articles

What Causes Hoses to Leak?
While the largest part of your engine is mechanical, hydraulics plays a significant role. You’ll find fluids at work in a number of different areas. Your car's fluids include: Engine oil Transmission...
How Much Does a Mechanic Make in Vermont?
Automotive technician jobs in Vermont have an average mechanic salary of $37k, with some mechanics earning a salary of $53k.
P2103 OBD-II Trouble Code: Throttle Actuator Control Motor Circuit High
P2103 means there is a fault with the throttle actuator control motor circuit, likely due to a defective electrical component or part.