The CHECK ENGINE Light: How To Keep a Warning From Being a Panic

One of the scariest things we can face when dealing with a problem with our car is the ambiguity of a Check Engine light. It doesn’t announce the problem directly but warns us like a fiery omen that our automobile may be in jeopardy until we get it serviced.

Most issues with a car aren’t as worrying. We know what to do when a tire blows, as scary as that can be. We know where to look when the car doesn’t start. But it’s hard to tell what to worry about (or how much you should be worried) when the Check Engine light is on. Driving with the light on can conjure imaginary demons or allow us to ignore real gremlins if we don’t take it seriously.

Here are some things to bear in mind when you see the Check Engine light getting your attention:

  1. A blinking Check Engine light is a serious issue. According to, a blinking Check Engine light is usually an indication of something much more dangerous. It can indicate an accidental misfire where unburned gasoline has passed through to the exhaust system, where it can ignite and destroy the catalytic converter. Always treat a blinking Check Engine light as an indication that you should NOT be driving the car.
  2. A steady light is an indication of a general fault. The constant glow of a steady Check Engine light can be several things-- and all of them should be checked out. It’s important to get service soon, but essential not to panic. 
  3. Take due caution. If you don’t feel safe driving, find a safe spot to park and try to park in such a way that a tow truck can pick your car up without issues. We offer free towing with work on your vehicle. Call us at 480-725-2836 for a pickup, or see our Towing page for after-hours numbers.
  4. Look for other lights and warnings and heed them. If an oil light comes on or the car’s temperature rises, don’t drive it. Any issues that would interfere with safe driving, like the steering wheel turning or the brakes not responding, would indicate not to attempt to drive the car. 
  5. Guide your car to service as soon as possible. Don’t wait, and don’t ignore the light if the car still runs. Something is wrong, and that light tells you that you have a window in which to get the matter serviced. 

At American Five Star, we hope you are practicing scheduled maintenance and employing the kind of preventative care that will protect your car for years to come. But if you haven’t looked after your vehicle and the Check Engine light is threatening, bring your vehicle to us, or call for a tow as soon as possible, and let us work with you to salvage your car. If you need automotive service, don’t forget to call American Five Star for assistance today!


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