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How Long Can You Drive Your Car With the Check Engine Light On?

  • Car Care Tips
  • Sara Sam
  • 4 minutes

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 Check engine light in your car is an alert that bluntly puts forth a reality that something isn’t right with the car. Should you switch to panic mode immediately? How long can you drive with the check engine light on? Here’s a low down on the dos and don’ts if you are in a similar situation.  

how long can you drive with check engine light on

What is the check engine light, and what does it do? 

The information gathered by the vehicle’s sensors is sent to the engine computer unit called the ECU. It is the ECU that controls the driving of the car. Whenever the ECU comes across an issue that it is unable to fix, it turns on the check engine light.

The light may be yellow, orange, or amber in color, indicating the “check engine” or lighting the shape of an engine. This will vary according to the model of the car. Once activated, there are two possible ways a check engine light can act. Firstly, it can remain blinking. Secondly, it can remain constantly lit. However, it is the blinking check engine light that needs instant action.  

In other words, the check engine light indicates that the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics system (OBD II) has identified a problem with the emissions, ignition, fuel, or exhaust systems. For instance, a faulty oxygen sensor, or damaged catalytic converter, could be a reason for the illuminated check engine light. Therefore, we must address it immediately.  

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Why does the check engine light turn on? 

There are several reasons for the check engine light to switch on.  

  • A damaged gas cap. 
  • Faulty catalytic converter 
  • An issue with spark plugs 
  • Oxygen sensor failure 
  • Vacuum leaks 
  • Dysfunctional battery 
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Can you drive with the check engine light on? 

Since an illuminated check engine light can point to multiple issues with the car, big and small, it is advisable to address it immediately. Therefore, it is better not to drive when the check engine light is on. In other words, if you continue driving after seeing the illuminated check engine light, you are in for a stressed engine and a burnt pocket.  

How long can you drive with the check engine light on? 

Once you see the check engine light, it is safe to drive with the light on for 50 to 100 miles. This is because if the issue is with the sensors, then this will buy some time for it to reset, turning the check engine light off.  

However, scan the computer for the appropriate error codes if the light remains. Consequently, fix the issue as early as possible. In addition, if the light keeps blinking, you must act immediately. This is because it can lead to misfires and cause damage to the engine.  

In other words, how long one can drive with the check engine light depends on the gravity of the situation and how much stress the engine can take up. It is better to act on the issue immediately.  

How can you switch off the check engine light?  

You can switch off the check engine light manually in several ways.  

  • Turn the engine on and off frequently.  
  • Connect an OBD scanner to the OBD connector and switch on the ignition. Address the error code and erase the codes.  
  • Remove the battery and drain the electricity. Reconnect after 15 minutes. 
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Can your insurance cover the issues with the check engine light? 

You might be eligible for financial assistance if you are covered under mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI). However, not all insurance companies provide MBI. Therefore, depending on the choice of provider, the coverage can vary.  

Meanwhile, if the check engine light is turned on as a result of a collision, then you will receive assistance through the collision coverage. However, it will depend on the kind of policy you have opted for.  


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