What Does Check Engine Soon Mean – Dashboard Warning Lights

Are you on a trip with your car and suddenly notice your dashboard warning light saying check engine soon? If you haven’t experienced something like this before, the first thing that comes to your mind is what does check engine soon mean?

Just like most vehicle owners, you may decide to ignore it. But, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t ignore it. Else it may lead to severe damage. Instead, what you need to do is to check and fix it as soon as possible.

The check engine soon light turns on if your car’s onboard diagnostics system detects a problem. So, read on to learn more about the check engine soon and how you can fix it.

The Check Engine Soon – What Does It Mean?

The check engine light turns on when your car’s onboard diagnostics system detects a malfunctioning or a problem. This light can turn on for many reasons, including a faulty engine component, spark plug, oxygen sensor, or a loose gas cap.

spark plug

Ignoring this warning can lead to a severe problem. Also, you don’t need to park the car at the side of the road and hire a towing truck. What you need to do once you see this light is to check your vehicle as soon as possible.

Usually, the check engine with other dashboard warning lights will come on when you start your car and go off after a few seconds. If the check engine light stays on, then it means that something is wrong. If the light is blinking, there is a severe problem that you need to fix immediately.

If the light is not blinking, it may be a simple problem that you can quickly fix. For instance, a loose gas cap can turn on the light. You can fix this by tightening the gas cap or replacing it with a new one. But if it is blinking, then it means that you need to take it to an auto technician.

Your vehicle may continue performing well even after giving you the warning. This does not mean that you should ignore the warning light. Check your car as soon as possible before the problem gets worse.

Service Engine Soon vs. Check Engine Soon

Most car owners often mistake the service engine soon and check the engine soon for one another. Some do not even know the meaning of the two. Though they may look similar, they are different from each other.

One primary reason why some car owners often mistake these two issues is that some car manufacturers combine the two indicators. So, it makes it difficult for some people to differentiate them. We will explain the difference between service engines and check engines soon.

Service Engine Soon

The service engine light comes on when your vehicle is due for routine maintenance or a minor issue with your car. This light often displays “Service Engine Soon” or “Service Due “words. Some modern cars may display it as “Service X or Y.”

The service engine may soon display a yellow or red color depending on the model of the vehicle. When you see this light, some of the routine maintenance that your vehicle may be calling for include oil, cabin filter, air filter, coolant, fluids, spark plug servicing, or replacement.


You don’t need to panic when you see a service engine light since it is not a sign of damaged components or malfunctions. However, though it is not an emergency, you need to attend to it quickly. First, take it to a trained auto-technician to identify the issue and fix it.

Check Engine Soon

Fixing “Check Engine Soon” Light Issue
Source: Own Work

This light comes on when there is a faulty component that you need to check as soon as possible. This means that your car is malfunctioning or failing. This warning often comes on as text or in the form of an engine.

This light often indicates a malfunction in your car’s ignition, fuel, emission, or exhaust system. For example, this light may come on if one of the sensors in your car is broken. The check engine light also comes on when a fundamental component in your vehicle is not working well.

Unlike the service engine light, the check engine light is an emergency, and it needs immediate attention. If you notice this issue, park your car as soon as possible to diagnose the problem. If you cannot fix the problem yourself, immediately take it to a certified auto technician.

Reasons for Check Engine Soon Light

There are several reasons why check engine light may turn on. This light might turn on when your car’s onboard diagnostic system detects a problem that needs urgent attention. There is no way you know the exact problem except you diagnose the vehicle.

Below, we will explain some of the common reasons why check engine soon light might come on:

Ignition System Problems

This problem may be caused by coil packs, spark plugs, or anything needed to ignite your car engine. The control module monitors the ignition system operation, which turns on the check engine soon light when there is a problem.

Engine Problems

The check engine light can also come on if there is a problem with the engine. The control module is responsible for monitoring the engine operation through sensors. The check engine comes on whenever the sensor detects a problem.

Air/Fuel Delivery Problems

Air and fuel are two crucial things that a car engine needs to run correctly. Therefore, the control module will turn the check engine light if the fuel/air becomes too little or too much.

Transmission Problems


The car transmission and the engine work together. Therefore, tailpipe emissions can increase if there is a problem with your car’s transmission. Thus, the check engine light will turn on if it detects this problem.

Modules and Sensors Problems

A collection of sensors and modules monitors the components in modern cars. These modules and sensors work together to ensure your car works well. For example, the check engine light may turn on if there is an issue with modules, sensors, and wiring.

Emissions Equipment Problems

The function of the emissions equipment is to reduce tailpipe emissions, thereby reducing air pollution. In addition, faulty emissions equipment may trigger the check engine light.

Causes for Check Engine Soon light

Loose Fuel cap

This fuel cap is one of the most critical parts of a vehicle fuel delivery system. A loose fuel cap allows gasoline fumes to leave the fuel tank and causes a malfunctioning fuel delivery system. In a situation like this, the check engine light will turn on.

Catalytic Converter Failure

function of the catalytic converter

The function of the catalytic converter is to turn carbon monoxide in the vehicle exhaust system into carbon dioxide. The check engine light will turn on if it is not functioning correctly. You can prevent catalytic converter failure by performing regular maintenance.

Also, you need to be sensitive when driving your car, so you can quickly notice discolored smoke or unusual sound from your exhaust. Finally, if the catalytic converter is completely damaged, you will need to replace it with a new one.

Bad Spark Plug Wires

The function of the spark plug wire is to transfer electricity. Therefore, you will not ignite your car engine if the spark plug wire does not transfer electricity to the spark plug. Some of the signs of a bad wire include lower gas mileage, poor engine performance, and a rough idle.

Ignition Coils or Spark Plug Issues

The check engine light will turn on if it detects a malfunctioning ignition coil or a worn plug. Some of the spark plug and ignition issues symptoms include engine misfire under heavy acceleration, or car shuts off unexpectedly.

Vacuum leak

brake booster

The vacuum system in a car performs a lot of functions. The vacuum is responsible for reducing emissions, and it also works together with the brake booster. However, vacuum hoses may crack when dry or exposed to extreme weather conditions. The check engine light will turn on if there is a vacuum leak, loose connections, and broken fittings.

Oxygen Sensor Failure

A bad oxygen sensor may not affect your car’s operation. The car engine may continue to run correctly even after the check engine light indicates oxygen failure, but the engine will be consuming more fuel. Also, it can damage other components if you don’t repair it quickly.

Mass Airflow Sensor Failure

Mass Airflow (MAF) problem is another common cause for checking engine light soon. Some MAF signs are stalling, reduced gas mileage, rough idle, sudden change in throttle pedal position, trouble starting the car, etc.

Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) System Failure

The EGR system reduces emissions and helps your car engine to run efficiently. If the EGR valve gets clogged or completely damaged, the check engine light will come on. You can replace it yourself if you’re mechanically inclined.

Improper Installation of Alarm System

alarm system

It is essential to hire a licensed professional to install your alarm system. An alarm system not correctly installed can turn on the check engine light, prevent your car from starting, or drain your battery.

Fixing “Check Engine Soon” Light Issue

The check engine soon light may come on when you least expect. The first thing you need to do when you see this warning is to check your car as soon as possible. Some tips to fix this problem are explained below:

  • First, check your dashboard lights and gauges to see if overheating or low oil pressure warning. These warnings mean that you should pack your car and turn off the engine quickly.
  • If you notice that the check engine light comes on immediately after you refill your fuel tank, you should check if the fuel cap isn’t loose. You can solve this issue by simply tightening your gas cap. You may also need to buy a new gas cap if the former one is bad.
  • If bad spark plug wires trigger the check engine light, you can easily swap them out by yourself within a few minutes. It does not require any special knowledge or tool.
  • Another thing that can trigger this issue is vacuum leaks. Tracing a vacuum leak or loose connections can be time-consuming. So, it would be best if you exercised more patience when fixing this problem.
  • If you cannot detect or fix this issue by yourself, you should take your car to a professional auto-technician as soon as possible.

Decoding Dashboard Warning Lights

One thing you must not do when a dashboard warning light pops up is to ignore it. Ignoring it can lead to a severe problem. Also, it would be best if you did not panic when you see this light. Next, we would explain how to decode dashboard warning lights.

Engine Oil Level

change the oil

This means that the vehicle is leaking oil, or you need to change the oil.

Battery Light

This means that your car charging system is not working correctly, or the battery voltage is too low.

Tire Pressure Monitoring

Car tire pressure is usually affected by drastic temperature changes, so make sure you fill up and gauge your tire as soon as possible when you see this sign.

Anti-Lock Brake System

This indicates that something is wrong with your car’s braking system. Make sure you check the problem immediately to prevent an accident.

Check Engine Light

It is challenging to know the cause of this light when it comes on. So, the best thing you need to do is look for a safe place to pull in and check your car.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, a check engine soon light could indicate a minor or major issue. To detect whether it is a minor or major issue, you need to pull aside and check your car. Some of the common Causes for Check Engine Soon light are explained in this article. You can follow the tips above to fix some of the minor issues. Contact a licensed auto-technician immediately if you cannot fix it yourself.

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