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What Does the Engine Light Mean on My Car?

Posted on 16th July 2021
What Does the Engine Light Mean on My Car?

The engine management light, sometimes known as the check engine light, will light up on your dashboard when there is an issue with your car that needs fixing. It’s different to other lights on your dashboard, as it is not specific to one single problem or part of your car. The light can indicate a range of problems, some urgent and some less serious.

Below is a guide to how you can identify what you should do when your engine light comes on.

What is the engine light?

The engine light has three different modes which can help you to recognise the type of problem:

Amber Engine Light

An amber light indicates a less serious issue. You should be able to continue driving your car but should get it booked in with a garage as soon as possible.

Flashing Engine Light

A flashing amber light means that there is a problem that could affect how the car drives. You might be able to hear that the engine sounds different or feel a change in how the car is handling. In this instance, you should take your car to be serviced right away.

Red Engine Light

A red engine light means a serious problem. If this light comes on you should stop driving at the earliest, safest place and call your breakdown provider or garage to recover the car.

What Causes the Engine Light to Turn on?

There are a lot of reasons why the engine management light might have turned on, but below are some of the most common:

Loose Fuel Cap

The problem causing your engine light to be on could be as simple as a loose fuel cap. If the cap is too loose, too much air can enter your fuel tank which will cause problems with the fuel economy and pressure.

The first point of call when your engine light comes on might be to look at your fuel cap to check it’s properly secured. You should also check it to see if it’s damaged, as any cracks will cause trouble. If it’s broken, you may need to purchase a replacement, but the parts are usually quite cheap.

Faulty Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow sensor measures how much air is flowing into the engine, so the right amount of fuel can be added to the engine’s combustion chamber. This helps your car to run efficiently. If the sensor has a fault the correct levels of fuel won’t be used, which could cause your engine to stall. A blocked air filter could contribute to the problem – you should aim to have the filter changed annually to reduce the likelihood of this happening.

This might not initially be a serious problem, but you should aim to drive to a garage as soon as possible to get it fixed, so you can drive your car efficiently again.

Blocked Fuel Injectors

The fuel injectors control how much fuel is added to your engine’s combustion chamber. If they become blocked or clogged, they won’t work properly, sometimes failing completely. Sometimes a fault can be caused by damage or failures of other sensors in the car and engine.

You should be able to feel in the handling of the car if this is the issue. It can develop into a serious problem, so you should drive to the nearest garage if your car starts to misfire.

Faulty Ignition System

The ignition system controls how the fuel and air burn correctly to make the engine work. In petrol engines, a spark plug is used to provide the spark that starts the combustion. In a diesel engine there is no spark plug, but there is a glow plug which assists with combustion on colder days.

It can cause a serious problem if any part of the ignition system is damaged or fails and you’ll notice the engine start to misfire. Make sure to drive to the nearest garage right away in this instance.

Damaged Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter reduces the harmful emissions that come from your car. If you have your car regularly serviced, it shouldn’t fail completely. However, it can be damaged by other parts of the car failing, for example if the ignition system breaks.

It can be difficult to know when this part is damaged just by driving your car, as it won’t affect the handling. However, it can be an expensive part to replace, so if your engine light comes on make sure to go to a garage to get it checked.

Blocked Particulate Filter

This is usually a fault with diesel engines, but particulate filters are now present in some petrol cars too. The filter traps the soot from the car’s exhaust which reduces the emissions from the car. If the filter is blocked, it may be possible to burn off the excess by driving at a higher speed for a period of time on a motorway.

If the engine light comes on because of this fault, you should get to a garage to have your car serviced. It’s expensive to replace a damaged filter so you’ll want to get it sorted as soon as possible.

How To Switch Off the Engine Light

In some vehicles you will be able to reset the light to turn it off, but if you haven’t fixed the problem, it will just come on again when you next switch on the car.

If you have sorted the problem, the light should automatically reset. Otherwise, a mechanic will be able to properly reset it, or some diagnostic readers can switch it off.


Euphoria Finance know how important it is to have your car up and running. If your check engine light has caused a serious problem, it may be time to purchase a new vehicle. Our quick car finance service makes it super simple to secure fast car finance and we even offer poor credit car finance for those who have been turned away by other providers. Take a look at our current vehicles to find the right car for you today.

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