FAQ: What Does the Check Engine Light or Service Engine Soon Mean?

The “service engine soon” light indicates that upcoming vehicle maintenance is due. This can indicate service is required for an oil change, air filter, or transmission fluid service. The “check engine” light (CEL) is more urgent than the service engine soon light. This indicator lets you know that there is something that needs your attention in your engine or emissions system. The problem can range from minor, like a loose gas cap, to expensive engine repairs, like a cylinder head assembly.

You can determine the severity of the issue based on how the check engine light appears on your dashboard:

Solid Yellow or Orange: The issue is likely minor if the check engine light is solid yellow or orange. However, you should get to an ASE Certified technician or repair shop within the next 100 miles.

Solid Red: The issue is more severe so pay attention to how your vehicle performs. If you detect no change in vehicle performance, it may be safe to continue driving to get to an engine service repair center.

Blinking: If your check engine light is blinking, pull over immediately, turn off your engine, and call your roadside assistance provider. This can indicate a misfiring engine and unburned fuel may get into the exhaust system causing catastrophic damage.

Whether you see a check engine or service engine soon light, ignoring it can cause unnecessary stress and damage to your vehicle and can potentially void a warranty.

Mechanic working and checking engine in garage

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