Is it safe to drive my car with the engine light on?

ALL cars have a range of dashboard warning lights that usually appear when something isn't working properly in your car.

But, are you safe to drive if your engine light comes on? Here's what we know:

Is it safe to drive my car with the engine light on?

If you spot your engine light coming on while you are on the road, you should always pull over and try to figure out what's causing the light to come on, as this will let you know if your car is ok to drive.

Remember it's important to stay calm and not panic, as the light can mean a number of things.

If you can figure out what's causing the engine light to come on, you should take it to your local mechanic to ensure that your car is 100 percent safe to drive.

Depending on the issue, if you can figure out what's causing the light to come on you may be able to drive it without any immediate safety concerns, but you should still take it to a professional as soon as possible.

However, you should be aware that just because you think your car is safe, it doesn't mean you can't be fined if you're pulled over.

According to the government website, you can get fined up to £2,500 for driving your car in a dangerous condition.

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You can also receive three penalty points and be banned from driving if you continue to do it. 

It is your responsibility as a driver that your vehicle is safe to drive on the roads, but if a policeman thinks that your car is unsafe then they can issue you with a fine.

What does an engine light look like?

Dashboards tend to have multiple lights that mean many things about the condition of your car.

Generally, there are three colours to look out for on your car dashboard and follows the traditional traffic light system.

They are: 

  • Green – means your car is in good condition and everything seems to be running smoothly.
  • Amber – this isn’t something that you need to worry about but does need your attention, with the advice being to head to your nearest garage to get it checked out. 
  • Red – if you see a red light you need to get it looked at immediately as it could lead to an accident or breakdown if not repaired. 

You should consult your car's handbook to identify exactly what your car's engine light looks like, as it can vary depending on the model.

Why is my engine light on?

Depending on why your check engine light is on, you might still be able to finish your trip before scheduling it for a maintenance check, for example, if it is a loose gas cap.

But if your car is experiencing another common reason, you could be worsening the damage and it could cost you more in repairs.

The check engine light could illuminate for a number of reasons, the 5 most common being:

  1. Oxygen sensor needs replacing.
  2. The catalytic converter is failing.
  3. Broken, missing, or loose gas cap.
  4. Spark plugs or wires need replacing.
  5. Mass airflow (MAF) sensor needs replacing.

If you are concerned when you see your engine light come on, you should check to see what's causing the problem.

Your dashboard may give you an indicator of what the issue is, as it may also tell you that you have low oil pressure or overheating issues, and you should stop driving if you see multiple of these lights appear.

Some cars also have a red check engine light as well as a yellow light, which tells the driver there is a need for investigation over urgent issues.

You should reduce speed and load, if possible and avoid speed surges erratic shifting.

You can also check your gas cap, especially if the light comes on shortly after refuelling.

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