What is the Engine Management Light and Why Might It Show Up?
While it may only be a small warning light, the engine management light illuminating on your dashboard could be a sign of a bigger issue, so it is never a good idea to ignore it. While it rarely indicates that your car is about to break down imminently, it can be an indication of an issue that you will need to have diagnosed and rectified before it worsens over time.
Of course, there are many instances where the check engine light is there because of a small issue. However, there is always a chance that something is seriously wrong, which is why it is never worth taking the risk of ignoring this dashboard warning light even if everything seems to be running smoothly when you are driving.
If you don’t find out what the cause is as early as possible, there is a risk that a relatively cheap, easy, and straightforward issue could get worse over time and turn into something much more expensive, serious and even dangerous.
What is the Engine Management Light?
Modern cars today have various warning lights that might show up on your dashboard from time to time. Thanks to standardised symbols, it’s usually easy to recognise whether your car is telling you to check the engine, top up your oil levels or that your engine has a high temperature. The engine management or check engine light can be more confusing than the others as it is not always clear what the issue might be.
There are all kinds of engine performance issues that might cause this light to come on. The engine management light is one of the lights that will show for a short time when you start the car. It’s usually an orange light at this point but will be red if you have an issue that requires your immediate attention.
Some cars also have ‘CHECK ENGINE’ that shows up to make it more obvious. While this light does show up when you start the engine, it should go away after a couple of seconds. If it doesn’t, or you notice it is on when you are driving, then you will need to take further action.
What Does it Mean When Engine Management Light Comes On
If the engine management light is amber or orange, then this does not usually mean that you should stop immediately. However, it is a good idea to check your engine for issues as soon as you can do so safely or have a mechanic look at your car to figure out why the light has come on. On the other hand, if your engine management light comes on when you are driving, then you should pull over as soon as possible and call a breakdown service since this will usually indicate that there is a more serious issue that will need attention.
You can also check your owner’s handbook for more information on the different warning lights and what they might indicate.
Why Has My Engine Management Light Come On?
The engine management light does not always indicate that there is a specific fault with the car. Most of the time it is alerting the driver to at least one issue and will often illuminate due to exhaust emissions. It may illuminate for some more serious issues.
The engine management light is connected to the onboard computer known as the engine control unit. This gets information from various sensors that are placed around the engine and the exhaust system. When the wrong data is reported, the check engine or engine management light will be triggered by the engine control unit. If this happens, first check how your car is performing. If there are no obvious noises, smoke or smells and the car is still driveable, then you should consider driving it to your local garage at a safe speed.
Some cars go into ‘limp home mode’ where the speed is reduced to a crawl while you get to where you need to be. If this happens, be careful and put your hazard warning lights on to warn other drivers that you are travelling at a very reduced speed. If you are unable to reduce your speed safely, for example, if you are driving on a highway, then pull over and contact your breakdown company for rescue.
Engine Management Warning Light Colours
Some cars will display the engine management light in different colours depending on how serious the problem is. Your car’s owner’s handbook will have more information on what each colour means. In general, typical cars tend to have three different types of engine warning light that will show up depending on the issue. These are:
This indicates an advisory warning and mainly shows up due to an engine issue that is impacting the emissions. It is not usually serious, and you will be able to continue your journey in most cases, but it is a good idea to have your car checked by a professional as soon as possible.
Flashing Amber Light
A flashing amber engine management light will generally indicate a misfire in the engine. It is often accompanied by rough driving and juddering. If you continue driving with this light on, there is a risk that the engine could overheat, which may cause damage to the catalytic converter, a part of the exhaust system which is expensive to replace. If this happens when you are driving, then make your way to the nearest garage gently, or call a breakdown service.
In some cars, a red engine management light might come on when there is a serious fault in the engine. If this light comes on when you are driving, then you should stop the car as soon as it is safe to do so, as continuing to drive could cause serious damage to your engine. Call your breakdown recovery company who can come out and check your car to determine the issue, or tow it to a garage where the mechanics can investigate and repair the problem.
What Can Cause the Engine Management Light to Come On?
Seeing the engine management light illuminated on your dashboard can often be confusing as the exact issue it is reporting is not always obvious. When the check engine light comes on, the car will also generate error codes that can be used to figure out the specific problem.
When you take your car to the garage, the mechanic will use a code reader that plugs into a data port to find out what the light is reporting. The good news is that anybody can buy a universal diagnostic reader, so it might be a good idea to have one in your glovebox so that if your engine management light comes on, you can figure out what the problem is from a safe spot at the side of the road.
You can get a Bluetooth reader that is plugged into the data port, where it will wirelessly communicate with your phone, sending you the error code so that you can work out what it means using your owner’s handbook or online car repair manuals.
What Does Engine Management Light Mean?
There are several potential reasons why your engine management light might be on. These include:
- Loose filler cap: As the fuel is pumped out of the tank, air is allowed in to replace it. When this does not happen, the change in pressure will impact the flow of fuel. A loose fuel cap results in more air being allowed in, which can throw off the reading from the sensor monitoring tank pressure, triggering the engine warning light.
- Contaminated Catalytic Converter: The catalytic converter is responsible for cleaning the exhaust emissions from the car. However, it may be damaged or destroyed by issues such as unburned fuel igniting in it. If the engine light has come on for this reason, it’s important to get it repaired as soon as possible since this part is very expensive to replace.
- Blocked Fuel Injectors: The fuel injectors inject fuel into the engine. There is one per cylinder, but they can become clogged by particles that have gotten through the fuel filter or be thrown off by other problems in the system. If this happens, the entire running of the engine will be affected, which will show up as a sharp decrease in performance or engine misfiring accompanied by the check engine light.
- Leaky Vacuum Hose: The vacuum hoses are there to channel emissions and air around the engine, making sure that it runs as efficiently as possible. Since they are made from rubber and exposed to extreme temperatures, they can become cracked over time. This can lead to the delicate gas balances becoming thrown off, which will trigger the engine warning light.
- Faulty Airflow or Oxygen Sensor: The airflow and oxygen sensors measure the quantity of air and oxygen coming into the engine. If there is not enough or too much, this will trigger the warning light.
The engine management light coming on is not always an immediate cause for concern, but it should always be checked out at the earliest possible convenience.