You are driving your car, and suddenly from nowhere, your check engine light is flashing on your dashboard.
What to do now? Will my car get damaged if I keep driving it?, How much will it cost? There are a lot of questions that are runnning through your brain. But don’t worry.
I work as a car diagnostic technician, and in this article, I will teach you what the check engine light is and how to fix it the fastest and cheapest way.
What does a flashing check engine light mean?
When the engine light is flashing, it means that there is a problem with the engine and there is a trouble code stored in your engine control module. Usually, the engine light is not flashing, but when the engine light is flashing, it means that a problem with the engine is occuring at that moment and it’s a more serious problem like a misfire.
The engine control unit is receiving values all the time from all the sensors of the car engine. When it gets all the information, it calculates how much fuel it should inject into the engine and at which angle it should fire the ignition. If one of the values from a sensor is faulty for a short amount of time, it will trigger a trouble code. If the engine control unit is getting the wrong value from the sensor all the time, the check engine light will flash until it gets the correct value again.
The check engine light is most likely to blink if there’s a severe constant problem, like an occurring ignition misfire, injector or a temperature sensor problem, that are an essential part of the engine’s running. In rare cases, there could also be an internal engine problem or a faulty engine control unit. From experience, a flashing check engine light is most often a misfire, EGR or an exhaust temperature sensor.
- Misfires on one or several cylinders (most common)
- Faulty spark plugs/Coils
- Faulty engine sensors (coolant, air temperature, exhaust temperature sensor etc)
- Faulty EGR valve
- Faulty/bad injectors
- Faulty crankshaft/camshaft sensor
- Exhaust emission problems
- Boost/overcharging problems
- Internal engine problem (rare)
- EVAP trouble codes
- Faulty engine control unit (rare)
Is it safe to drive with the check engine light flashing?
It’s never recommended to drive with a flashing check engine light. A constant check engine light can be okay to drive with sometimes, but a flashing engine light is most likely a more serious problem that has to be fixed as soon as possible.
If you notice the check engine light flashing when you are out and driving, you should drive the shortest way to a mechanic workshop to let them take a look before you keep driving. Driving with a flashing engine light can result in more expensive problems with your engine.
One example is if the car is misfiring/not running at all on one cylinder, and you keep driving for a long distance, you can fill up the catalytic converter with fuel and destroy it. Because the fuel on that cylinder won’t get ignited, the fuel can run down through the piston rings into your oil pan, and it can result in the need for a whole new engine if unlucky.
My recommendation: Do not run your car with a flashing check engine light; tow it to the closest workshop if possible.
How to find the problem with my flashing check engine light?
The first thing you should do if the check engine light is flashing or is constant on your dashboard is to read the trouble code memory. When the engine light is lit up, and the engine control unit recognizes a problem with the engine, the engine control unit will store a trouble code in the memory. The code will be stored there for a long time, so you have the chance to read the trouble codes. But remember that the engine control unit can erase the code itself after a while if it finds the problem is fixed, so don’t wait for too long to read the codes.
To read the trouble codes from the engine control unit, you need an OBD2 scanner. You can either drive your car to a workshop and let a mechanic read the trouble codes from the engine control unit, or you can also do it yourself if you have a scanner. If you do not have a scanner but are interested in getting one, I can recommend the NexPeak T501 that you see in the picture. You have a lot more functions than just reading the trouble codes with it, and you can carry out the most advanced troubleshooting on your engine with it.
You can check the price of the Nexpeak scanner if you click on the link below to Amazon.com.
Check Price on Amazon
- A flashing check engine light means that the problem is occuring at the moment and it’s most likely a more serious problem like a misfire.
- It’s not recommended to drive with the check engine light flashing or ON.
- The problem is most likely a misfire, combustion or a faulty engine sensor problem.
- When the problem occurs, the best way is to check the trouble codes is with an OBD2 scanner. You can do it yourself at home with a scanner.
If you have any other questions about a flashing check engine light or want to share your story of how you fixed it, please comment below. If you have any other car questions, you are welcome to ask them at our homepage.