Car Care Tips

Tips to keep your car on the road.

Safety March 5, 2019

Check Engine Light FAQs

Check Engine Light

A check engine light can be scary and annoying at the same time. It signals that there’s something potentially dangerous happening under the hood of your car, but it won’t tell you exactly what it is.

It can be tempting to ignore the light and brush off the possibility that a repair is actually needed, but that’s not the best idea. “The customer is really, in the long run, potentially hurting their pocketbook by leaving that light on and ignoring it,” Jim Collins, a national training team leader for Ford Motor Co., told Consumer Reports.

Visiting Virginia Tire & Auto for a car computer diagnostic can help uncover hidden issues that a check engine light could be pointing to that are unnoticeable without a thorough diagnostic inspection. Our ASE certified technicians won’t stop until the problem is diagnosed and fixed—saving you time and money on frequent and unnecessary repairs.

Check engine light FAQs


Why is my check engine light on?

Your vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM) is the computer that monitors the normal operating range of the different components in your vehicle. It has electronic sensors all over your car, so when something’s amiss,  the check engine light can tell you “hey, there’s a problem here.”  From there, you should schedule an appointment with a professional mechanic in order to determine the exact issue that caused the alert. Common issues are a loose gas cap, an issue with your mass airflow and oxygen sensors, and spark plug and catalytic converter malfunctions.  You can only be certain what is going on when a full computer diagnostic has been run.

What should I do when my check engine light turns on?

If you’re driving, don’t panic, but pull over. Sometimes it’s ok to drive a moderate distance with your check engine light on, but without knowing what’s wrong with your vehicle, it’s better to just get off the road. Once you’ve safely pulled over, run through this checklist to see if it’s possibly something serious. Once you’ve decided whether or not you need to call a tow truck, the next step is to schedule a car computer diagnostic to have your car inspected by a car care expert who’ll be able to diagnose the problem and provide the service to fix it then and there.

The experts at Virginia Tire & Auto will use our top-of-the-line diagnostic tools, run road test and take a deep dive into your vehicle until we can guarantee your car is fixed and road-ready.

Why is my check engine light flashing?

Typically, when the check engine light turns on, the symbol on your dashboard is a solid light that remains on until the problem is resolved. It’s not advised to keep driving with your light on, but a solid check engine symbol indicates that you’ll most likely be ok as long as you schedule an appointment with a mechanic soon.

However, if the light is flashing, that generally means there’s a serious problem with your engine. When your check engine light flashes, pull over, turn off your car and call a tow truck. Before you drive your car again, take it into your local VATire location and get an engine diagnostic to see what the problem is.

Will I need repairs if my check engine light turns on?

You won’t necessarily need repairs every time that your check engine light comes on. Sometimes all you need to do it tighten your gas cap and that’s that. Most of the time, however, the check engine light is an indicator that there is a serious problem with your car that needs to be addressed.

Regardless of the issue, taking your car in to get checked by a professional car care expert is the best way to fix any current issues with your car and avoid further damage down the road. Trained mechanics can read your car’s computer and decide what, if any, repairs will be needed.  

Can I ignore my check engine light?

If car manufacturers thought something was unimportant, they wouldn’t have made a special light for it. If your check engine light comes on, that means that something needs to be addressed. If you’ve seen your check engine light turn off on its own before, that means whatever component was causing the alert has swung back into its normal operating range and stopped alerting your PCM. If that’s a recurring problem in your vehicle, it could easily swing back out again and cause issues. Basically, when the check engine light turns on, it’s time to come in for a car computer diagnostic.  

What makes Virginia Tire & Auto’s Car Computer Diagnostic different?

At Virginia Tire & Auto, we don’t believe in doing things halfway. That’s why our check engine light diagnostics aren’t like the others’. Many auto shops offer free check engine light services that only scan your control module for active trouble codes and don’t take the time to find and identify the exact problem. To us, that’s not a full diagnostic.

Our technicians will work as long as it takes to thoroughly check your vehicle, going under the hood, disassembling parts and testing systems again and again until we see the all-clear. We take the codes our diagnostic tools give us and don’t stop until we test and repair each possible issue to get your vehicle back in tip-top shape. Plus, we provide a 2-year/24,000-mile warranty on all repairs performed by our car care experts, giving you peace of mind as you drive off the lot.

If your check engine light is on, don’t pass us by!

When your check engine light is on, make sure to schedule a car computer diagnostic at one of our 17 Virginia Tire & Auto locations. Our top-of-the-line equipment reads your car’s PCM to pinpoint any issues with your vehicle and get you back on the road safely.

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