What to Do If Your Check Engine Light is Flashing

It’s the one thing every car owner fears: the check engine light coming on. One factor that makes the check engine light so worrying is that the light itself doesn’t tell you what’s wrong with the vehicle. Is it something serious or something harmless? We’re here to help you break down exactly what could be the cause of the issue.

One thing to know is that there’s a fairly major difference depending on whether your check engine light is on consistently or if it’s flashing intermittently.

Check Engine Light is Flashing

If your check engine light is flashing on and off, you have a much more serious issue on your hands. Stop driving your car immediately and get it towed. Take it to get inspected by our Northern Virginia auto repair experts at Perfection Automotive. We’ll run a full automotive diagnostic to determine the cause of the problem.

A flashing check engine light often signifies that your engine is misfiring. This indicates a problem with your engine’s fuel, spark plugs, timing, compression, or some other mechanical failure.

If you continue to drive your car under these conditions, it will cause unburned fuel in your vehicle to be dumped into the car’s exhaust system. This can do a lot of damage to your car’s catalytic converter – which can be very expensive to replace – and eventually to the engine itself.

Reasons Your Check Engine Light is On

If your check engine light is illuminated consistently, it is often a less serious issue (but can still be a significant problem!)

Loose Gas Cap

One very common reason that your check engine light is on is if you have a loose gas cap or a broken gas cap seal. If you recently filled your car up with gas but didn’t secure the gas cap, small amounts of gas will leak out of the cap which sends an alert signal to the car and sets off the check engine light.

The first thing you should do if your check engine light comes on is to secure the gas cap. If that is the only issue, our experts at Perfection Automotive can easily cycle the light off to give you peace of mind again.

CONCERN LEVEL: Low. Your car will not lose significant amounts of fuel or gas with a loose gas cap, but the gas cap is meant to serve as protection for your engine from dirt, dust, and other particles that could otherwise get into your vehicle’s interior and cause problems.

Bad Battery

A failing or corroded car battery will cause your check engine light to turn on. This is one of the more common reasons your light will come on. A broken or undercharged battery won’t be able to send enough power to the engine to turn your vehicle on.

CONCERN LEVEL: Moderate. Your car battery is only needed when turning the car on. This means that while the check engine light is on, you don’t run the risk of further damaging your car by driving it around. However, you may discover any day that your car won’t start, which could lead to a lot of personal headaches for you if that happens at an inconvenient time or place!

Air Intake System

Another very common problem that can cause your check engine light to turn on is an issue with the engine’s air intake system. If there is excessive air in the system caused by a hole in an air hose or a loose hose, that will send warning signs to your engine system.

CONCERN LEVEL: Moderate. Your car can still run for a short amount of time without getting this problem fixed, but it can cause a lot of damage to your vehicle if left unattended to. Your engine will become damaged without the air intake system filtering out harmful debris.

O2 Sensor

Another potential issue that could cause your check engine light to turn on is if your car’s oxygen sensor is faulty. The oxygen sensor measures the oxygen in your car’s exhaust. It then sends those signals back to the engine control computer. When that link is broken or when your engine senses something is wrong with the O2 sensor, the check engine light can come on.

CONCERN LEVEL: Moderate. These are relatively inexpensive to repair, but a broken O2 sensor will make your car sound rough when running. Eventually, it will also lead to the breakdown of other essential functions in your vehicle, so you’ll want to get this issue addressed quickly.

Clogged/Dirty Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter is responsible for protecting your engine from harmful toxins by turning them into less harmful chemicals like water or carbon dioxide. If yours is damaged, clogged, or dirty, your O2 sensor will sense the problem and turn on the check engine light.

CONCERN LEVEL: Extreme. A failing catalytic converter cannot protect your engine from these harmful chemicals which could eventually lead to irreparable damage to the engine itself. Catalytic converters are expensive to replace, but an engine is even more expensive to replace.

If your check engine light is on or if you have any other car concerns, bring your vehicle in to the repair shop at Perfection Automotive. We’ll run a full diagnostic on your vehicle to find out exactly what needs to be done to solve the issue.