The check engine light has been around since about 1990. Its initial purpose was to provide information about the emission control status of the vehicle. Check engine lights are typically orange in color because they still primarily deal with emission controls. However, emission controls now includes additional elements, as well. Remember, a yellow light means you can typically keep driving. If the vehicle’s performance seems normal, you can continue driving but should seek service as soon as it is practical. Emissions concern air pollution—so, for instance, if a spark plug is not working properly, it causes the car to pollute more than it should, and the check engine light comes on. The onboard computer will register the fact that there is a misfire due to the failed spark plug and lights the check engine light to alert the driver that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Formerly, a failed spark plug wouldn’t cause the check engine light to come on. It would come on if you had a fuel canister that was full of gasoline or if the EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) system failed. Now the check engine light encompasses many things. There are somewhere between six hundred and nine hundred different reasons why the check engine light might come on. A technician needs to run tests on the system to determine the actual cause so they can correct this problem. Even if the vehicle seems to be operating normally, there are a great many things that can cause a check engine light to come on that will cause very expensive repairs to result if the problem is not addressed soon. What is a $200 failure today can easily become a $1500 repair next week. Another reason to not ignore the check engine light is that if it is always on, the driver has no way to know that another system malfunctions and the computer wants to light the check engine light to alert the driver. There is just way too much downside to ignoring a check engine light so don’t be one of those people who cost themselves many hundreds of dollars because they ignored an obvious warning.

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