Can I Drive with the Check Engine Light ON?

Your car may be performing fine when suddenly you notice that the “check engine light” has been activated. If this is your first time experiencing the check engine light turning on, it can be unsettling, to say the least. Often when our Supertech Auto Repair North Vancouver clients experienced this issue for the first time, they call us immediately. Most of them want to know if they should turn off the engine or whether it’s safe to drive with it on. 

Amber Check Engine Light is activate on a car dashboard

What Does the Check Engine Light Mean?

Firstly, you don’t need to worry about your engine seizing or experiencing serious damage because the engine management warning light (EML) has been activated. You can keep driving but you do need to book a diagnostic test as soon as possible to determine why it has been activated. 

You shouldn’t really worry about the Engine Light coming on The reason for this yellow, orange, or amber light coming on is to “warn you” to investigate a potential issue. Unlike red warning lights which indicate a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately (e.g. an overheating engine or low oil pressure). 

Possible Causes for Engine Light Activation

Your vehicle’s check engine light may be activated for a number of reasons. It could be the result of something minor like a loose gas cap, or something more serious like a faulty catalytic converter. Therefore, to avoid costly repairs, it is best to visit a reputable auto repair and service shop like Supertech Auto Repair North Vancouver, where we can use our diagnostic equipment to determine the exact cause. Our accurate diagnostics can help save you a lot of money by dealing with any issue properly the first time.

Here are some of the most common causes for the check the engine light to come on:

Loose, Missing, or Damaged Gas Cap

If your car’s check the engine light comes on after you have refueled then you should check the gas cap. The gas cap helps maintain pressure inside the gas tank and prevents the gas from evaporating or releasing fumes. Consequently, if the gas cap isn’t properly fixed or has not been put back, then you are likely to see your engine light activated.

Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter is an essential and expensive part of your car’s exhaust system. It basically converts carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide which is less harmful. A faulty catalytic converter could affect the performance of your engine and even cause it to run at higher than normal temperatures which will affect your fuel economy. You also need to keep in mind that, if this component isn’t working properly, you are likely going to fail your emissions test!

Spark Plugs and/or Wires

Your car’s spark plugs and wires need to be in good condition to create the sparks needed for the combustion processes within the engine to take place. If the plugs and wires are rusted or misfiring, your car’s engine will not perform optimally. Issues with these parts could lead to lower fuel economy and costlier damages to the ignition coil, oxygen sensor, and catalytic converter.

Oxygen Sensor

Your vehicle’s oxygen sensor monitors the unburned oxygen within the exhaust. This sensor can help monitor your fuel consumption by helping adjust the mixture of air and fuel needed for your engine to run optimally. If the oxygen sensor is damaged you can experience lower fuel economy and can even result in damages to the spark plugs, which are not that costly to replace, and your catalytic converter which is quite expensive.

Mass Airflow Sensor

The mass airflow sensor (MAF) monitors the air that enters the engine. The amount of air needs to be regulated to maintain the ideal fuel consumption. Frequently, this sensor can malfunction because of a dirty air filter, or because your air filter was not installed properly. Consequently, the airflow will not be regulated and you can damage your spark plugs, catalytic converter, and oxygen sensor.


From 1978 when GM introduced electronic systems in cars, to today’s sophisticated electronic control units (ECU), your car’s “health” and performance are monitored when you turn on the ignition. Your ECU runs a check on all the different parts of the engine. If any component or system is not working properly or needs service, the check engine light can be activated. That’s why it is important to take your car to qualified auto shops like Supertech Auto Repair North Vancouver for a diagnostic test to determine why your engine light is on!

Book Diagnostic Test & Service

If you want to diagnose correctly the reason why your check engine light has come on, you need well-trained and experienced mechanics to run and evaluate diagnostic tests on your vehicle’s engine. Avoid costly repairs and have any issues fixed right the first time. If you would like more information about our diagnostic testing, call us at 604-980-9801 or book your appointment online. Our expert Red Seal Certified car mechanics can conduct a thorough service of your and help keep it performing at an optimal level.