What Does the ‘Check Engine’ Light Mean?

If you have ever wondered what the dashboard symbols in a car mean, you aren’t alone. Each of these symbols gives you essential information about the condition of your vehicle, with perhaps the most crucial of these being the ‘check engine’ light.

The ‘check engine’ light comes in a few different forms, but it will generally include a symbol in the shape of an engine and the word ‘CHECK’. While this light does not always indicate a dire situation, it is always important to take it seriously. The issue could be anything from the engine overheating due to low coolant to a major electrical malfunction. There is always a reason behind your dashboard lights, meaning that ignoring them could spell disaster on the road.

If the reason for your ‘check engine’ light being on is not obvious, you should get your vehicle to a professional mechanic as soon as possible so they can properly diagnose the issue. 

Why is my ‘check engine’ light on?

There are a number of reasons your ‘check engine’ light could be on. Thankfully, the light will usually provide additional information depending on whether it is blinking or not. If the light is not blinking, the issue is not critical and it is probably safe to drive home or to your local mechanic.

When the ‘check engine’ light begins blinking, your engine has a serious problem and you must pull over and stop driving immediately. The vehicle is no longer safe to drive, meaning you will need to have it towed to a nearby mechanic.


Being aware of the different triggers of dashboard warning indicators can help you better understand the problem with your car engine. Lights suggesting you should check your engine can be caused by the following.

Low oil

Generally, low oil will not be the cause of the ‘check engine’ light appearing on your dashboard, although it can not be ruled out entirely. This is because there should be a separate indicator for when the issue is low oil in the engine of your car. ‘Check engine oil’ may appear as an oil lamp with a drop of oil on the spout, or it may simply display the word ‘OIL’.

Even so, it may be worth checking your oil levels when the engine light comes on. If you are not low on oil, ensure the cap is properly secured, then see whether the light is still visible.

Damaged or loose wires

Damaged or loose wires are a common cause of the ‘check engine’ light appearing on your dashboard. This issue can be caused by substantial wear and tear in your vehicle.

As this is an electrical issue, it will be difficult to diagnose without taking your vehicle to a qualified auto electrician. If you are unable to determine the cause of the ‘check engine’ light, it is time to get the professionals involved, since a complicated electrical issue may be the problem.

Engine overheating 

Most of the time, the ‘check engine’ light will be activated when the engine overheats while driving. It should become immediately apparent that this is the cause since you will most likely see an alarming spike in your temperature gauge. 

When this happens:

  • Turn on your hazard lights
  • Pull over immediately (when safe)
  • Turn off your engine

Generally, this issue will occur due to low or no coolant. If you topped up the coolant recently, you may have a coolant leak, which a mechanic will be able to repair. Do not check the coolant levels while the engine is hot.

If the engine has overheated but low coolant is not the issue, your car will not be safe to drive until inspected by a professional. 

When should I visit a mechanic?

When your ‘check engine’ light comes on, there are a few simple things you can do, such as replacing the oil or coolant, tightening the caps and turning your car off and on again. If the light is still on after this, don’t take any risks – get your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Hi-Mech Auto Solutions will do everything that is necessary to get you back on the road safely, whether it is fixing up the wires or running an engine diagnostic. Simply call our friendly team on (07) 7517 0121 or complete our online contact form today.