Engine Light

October 21, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most drivers experience it but few know how to decipher it: the check engine light.The infamous check engine light, you know the one. It pops up as a symbol or you may see, "service engine soon." but what does it mean?

Robert Cantisani, a mechanic for 15 years, sees it all the time. "It comes on for a variety of reasons. It can be anything from a gas cap being off the car to a major malfunction with the engine, or the transmission."

Jon Linkov, Consumer Reports, says "Usually you don't have to pull over and call a tow truck. Still, you shouldn't ignore it. Have your car checked out by a mechanic. Otherwise it could cost you more in the long run."

To rule out less serious problems, try tightening your gas cap. A loose cap can trigger the check engine light. Keep in mind it may take a few trips before the light resets. However, there are a few things that flag a serious problem.

"If the low oil pressure or overheating indicator lights are on, your car does need immediate attention. Pull over and shut off the engine," says Linkov. Otherwise, just make a point of getting your car to the mechanic as soon as possible.

GM vehicles equipped with Onstar offer an advantage when it comes to the check engine light. Car owners can call Onstar to find out what the problem is, which can help reduce some of that anxiety.

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