Check Engine Lights: What to do and How to Fix Errors

Photo: Md Iftekhar Uddin Emon

Like most car warning lights, the check engine light is a yellow, orange, or red engine symbol that appears on your dash when your car’s system malfunctions. Either it flashes or it remains steady.

In the event that your check engine light is flashing, that’s an emergency. Safely pull over to the side of the road, as soon as possible.

On the other hand, if the warning light is steady, then there’s no cause for alarm. Just follow the simple steps outlined below.

The check engine light can be a bother in your everyday driving.
Image from: pixel2013

First, Calm Down And Pull Over To The Curb

Admit it, the moment the check engine light illuminates your dash, your head immediately starts racing with questions.

  • How serious can this issue be?
  • How can I fix it?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Who can help me quickly diagnose the mechanical fault?

Calm down. Take a deep breath.

Naturally, when the check engine light comes on, your car is talking to you. The severity of the issue depends on the type of error code the computer scanner has identified.

It could be something as minor as a loose gas cap. But, there are times it could be a failing oxygen sensor or a faulty catalytic converter that has triggered the check engine light. Those are costly repairs.

Let’s now dig deeper and learn more about the check engine light and the common issues associated with it.

Here’s the outline:

What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?
How to Solve the Check Engine Light Problems
Check Engine Light Codes
Common Check Engine Light Causes, Repairs, Costs
How to Reset Your Check Engine Light

What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

If your car’s year of manufacture is 1996 and beyond, then it has an On-Board Diagnostic II (OBD-II) system. The sensors within your engine system monitor each operation in your car and then they send messages to your car’s computer.

Once an error code is sent for any engine part that has malfunctioned, the check engine light comes on to alert you. The warning light, depending on your car model will be orange, yellow, or red. Thee symbol is always a car engine outline and may be accompanied with the words “check engine”

Next, let’s outline the two types of engine warning lights.

Check engine light on but steady: A steady light means there’s an issue to be looked into but it’s not very serious at the moment. However, you should book an appointment with your mechanic as soon as possible to avoid possible further damage.

Check engine light is on but flashing/blinking: This indicates a more serious issue. The safest option is to safely pull over then shut off the engine. Next, you’ll need to tow your car to an auto repair shop for diagnosis and repair.

A reminder: Don’t confuse the check engine light with the service light. The service light is shaped like a wrench with the words “service soon” or “service now.” The service light is only a reminder of the routine scheduled car maintenance. It doesn’t indicate a mechanical issue.

Full List of Indicators & Symbols: Car Warning Lights Resource Centre

How to Solve the Check Engine Light Problems

First and foremost, you need to read the error code on your car’s computer system. Remember the error codes are logged by the sensors located in the engine.

Now listen to this very carefully, you don’t need to be technically inclined to read the error codes.

How’s that even possible? Here’s how ridiculously easy it is!

GOFAR, a tiny diagnostic tool will alert you on over 300 common car issue In. Plain. English. Just plug in the GOFAR dongle onto the OBD II port located under the dash, near the steering column. Next, you need to download the GOFAR app on your phone. And you’re done! A simple as that – more like plugging in your earphones to your phone.

GOFAR will now scan your car every 2 seconds and when an issue is identified, it will instantly alert you.

Sounds impressive, right? Check it out for yourself.

The other option for reading your code is to take your car to a mechanic who will read the error codes for a fee. Some may waiver the cost if you agree to have them do the repairs after diagnosis.

However, the problem with this option is that you drive all the way to the repair shop only to be told that issue is a loose gas cap or a similar minor issue! Something you would have easily fixed if you had a GOFAR OBD2 Diagnostics App installed in your car.

Check Engine Light Codes

Once you have identified your check engine light error code, it is important to find out what it means. Remember GOFAR explains such error codes in simple English so you know exactly what to do next.

However, if you don’t have your GOFAR yet, then you will need to type the error code on Google or any other search engine that you may prefer. Also include details such as the year of manufacture, your car make, and model. Provide specific information into the search engine in order to get a more accurate answer.

Often, you will get results on the car issue and some repair suggestions. The only problem with looking up for codes online is that they they don’t accurately diagnose the car issue.

Even if you have the code, it could be a general area defect that will still require further diagnosis.

Let’s look at an example to put this point into perspective

P0440 is a common engine error code. It means vapours from the fuel tanks are escaping into the atmosphere. Main cause, a loose gas cap. And the logical solution is to tighten or replace the gas cap. Once you fix that, the light will go off after driving for 50-100 miles.

However, if the light still remains on, there could another underlying issue for the leak. And it needs to be determined by a certified mechanic.

Common Check Engine Light Causes, Repairs, Costs

5 most common check engine repairs

The costs for identifying and fixing check engine light issues are varied depending on your geographic location, vehicle type, age of car, urgency for repair and the type of mechanical problem. Common repairs costs range between $20 to $1200, when taking the aforementioned factors into account.

Let’s have a look at a table outlining the common repair problems and average costs for fixing them.

Check Engine Light IssueRepairAverage total cost ( Parts & Labour)
Faulty Fuel capTighten or replace$26
Bad oxygen sensor Replace oxygen sensor (s)$259
Faulty Ignition coil and bad spark plugsChange ignition coils and the bad spark plugs$401
Faulty Mass Air Flow Sensor Replace Mass Air Flow Sensor$378
Bad Catalytic Converter Fix new catalytic converter (s)Fix new catalytic converter (s)

How to Reset Your Check Engine Light

If you have a code reader such as GOFAR, it is possible to reset your vehicle computer’s error codes and finally turn off the check engine light on your own.

A warning though, if you have not fixed the core issue, eventually the light will come on again. It gets worse when your car is up for an emissions test or inspection because it will outrightly fail the test. Why? Because sometimes, the check engine light error code is stored in your computer system but doesn’t illuminate on the dash.

Another downside for ignoring the check engine light warning is a possible snowball effect. If a simple inexpensive part malfunctions but is left unattended, it may slowly but surely cause further damage to other car parts that end up being more costly to replace.


Confused and not sure what the engine warning light is telling you? GOFAR has a reliable and safe solution for you.

Install GOFAR in your car to receive plain English error codes on over 300 common issues with your car.

You can check whether your car is compatible or learn more about understanding your dashboard symbols and car warning lights on the spot.

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