You must have noticed a cluster of different lights welcoming you, every time you switch on the ignition. These lights show different components, such as the car battery, oil, airbag and ABS. One of these lights is a very important diagnostic indicator, the Check Engine light. A square-shaped yellow light that appears once you start the car and goes away after a few seconds.
Your car has an onboard diagnostic (OBD) system that controls the check engine light. The Electronic Control Unit (ECU), which is your car’s computer, controls this OBD system. Almost every major electrical or electronic system in modern cars is controlled by the ECU, which is constantly scanning for abnormal operating parameters or malfunctions as reported by different sensors and actuators.
It is designed to make the life easier for you and your mechanic, by generating an error code and pointing out the problem, instead of having to check each and every part. If the check engine light doesn’t go away or keeps flashing, there’s something wrong with your car and you need to get it checked. Let’s have a look at some of the common reasons behind the check engine light flashing and how to get it scanned.
What Does a Flashing Check Engine Light Mean?
Check engine light can warn you in different ways, it either remains ON or keeps flashing. Every type of indication has a different warning and points towards a potential hazard or malfunction.
A check engine light can flash or blink in an intermittent or a continuous fashion, and occurs due to different reasons;
If your check engine light flashes and then stops after a while, probably after going over a bump or a speed breaker, it is due to some broken wires or loose connectors. These loose connections cause the light to flash and also indicate that that fault is short lived.
A continuously flashing check engine light indicates a critical issue and if neglected, can cause serious damage to the engine and other parts. This usually occurs due to a misfire that allows the fuel to pass down to the catalytic converter via the exhaust manifold, causing damage due to ignition and high temperatures.
What does it mean when your check engine light flashes then stops?
If your check engine light flashes for some time and then goes away, it indicates that the problem is occurring due to a fault that’s not occurring continuously. Most of the time, it is not such a major issue and can be diagnosed and solved easily, while in some instances, it could be serious.
The fluttering check engine light in your car could be due to following reasons;
1- Bad Spark plugs
The purpose of spark plugs is to send current to the car’s combustion chamber. and if the spark plug is defective, there would be a fluctuation in the current flow. Hence, the check engine light will flash, indicating that your car’s spark plugs need to be replaced.
2- Loose Gas Cap
The gas cap keeps dust and debris out of the combustion system and cylinders. A defective gas cap could lead to a gas leak and the car’s computer system receives a signal from the gas tank sensors. As a result, the check engine light flashes to signal that your car has a basic problem.
3- Faulty Wiring
In some cases, your engine may have faulty wiring. Fluctuations in the connection are caused by damaged or loose wires. The check engine light will blink a few times if these fluctuations are considered a problem.
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Causes of a Flashing or Blinking Check Engine Light
The check engine light in your car is a warning system, which scans the different components of the car and generates the error code for easy diagnostics. If there’s anything wrong with any system of the car, the Check Engine Light would likely blink to warn the owner.
Some common reasons behind flashing check engine light include;
· Fuel system faults, including fuel pump and injectors.
· Mechanical and electrical faults in the engine.
· Increased emissions due to a fault in the catalytic converter etc.
· Gasket issues, hose or vacuum leak.
· Problem with wiring, connectors, and joints.
· Faulty EGR valve, oxygen or EVAP sensor.
· Computer malfunction.
· Electrical short in a monitored circuit.
What to do when the check engine light flashes?
You’re calmly driving down around the city and suddenly the check engine light starts flashing. Well obviously it’s a warning sign that something is wrong with your car, but there is no need to panic. The light is there to warn you, so that you could get it checked and fixed in time, before any serious damage occurs.
Here’s what you should do when the check engine light flashes;
1. If it happens when you’re parked somewhere, do not drive away immediately and check for loose battery terminals, fuel cap, or wires.
2. If the light doesn’t go away, locate a workshop nearby and take your car in for scanning.
3. You can also buy and keep an OBD-II scanner at home or in your car, and scan the car’s ECU for error codes.
4. In case you’re driving and the check engine light flashes, it means something is wrong but is also in initial stages and hasn’t caused a serious damage.
5. Take your car to the nearby mechanic, get it scanned and fixed.
6. It is important that you keep the common error codes noted in your phone, so you can get to know the problem, in case you’re stranded or can’t reach a mechanic any time soon.
Modern cars have become quite complex and loaded with tons of technology. Although it is meant to make life easier and comfortable for the owners, but it can also become a headache in case something goes wrong.
Luckily, modern cars also have a self-diagnostic and warning system, the check engine light. It turns ON or flashes if something is wrong with the car, for example misfiring, bad spark plugs, faulty sensors or wiring, and even severely damaged engine parts.
It is important that the car owners know some common reasons behind flashing check engine light, and get their cars scanned as soon as they face any problem. An OBD-I scanner can be used to check the error code and pinpoint the faulty component, making life easier for the owners and mechanics at the same time.