Posted under Car Engine

It’s the yellow warning light no driver wants to see. It can come on when you least expect it because your car seems to be running just fine. Let’s talk about the Check Engine Light (CEL). What triggered it? How long can you drive with the Check Engine Light on?

Check Engine Light Meaning

So, what’s up? There’s no single answer to that question. Something minor may have triggered it, like a loose gas cap, or something more serious, like an engine misfire. But here’s the important thing: when you see it, don’t panic. The Check Engine Light doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pull over to the side of the road and call a tow truck.

The Check Engine Light meaning can depend on whether the light is constantly illuminated or blinking.

  • If the light is steady, the problem is typically not an emergency. Bring your car into Jiffy Lube® at your earliest convenience and  a trained technician can diagnose the problem.
  • Flashing light may indicate an engine problem that requires immediate attention. Get your car to a mechanic as quickly as possible. With more than 2,000 locations nationwide, there’s sure to be a Jiffy Lube® nearby.

What if the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) Comes On?

Great question! Drivers often confuse dashboard indicator names. In cars manufactured from 1996 to present day, the Check Engine Light is more correctly referred to as the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL). If the MIL is illuminated, take the same steps outlined above: If the light is steady, get to a mechanic as soon as you can; if the light is flashing, have it taken care of immediately.

How Long Can You Drive with Check Engine Light On?

Remember, if the MIL is flashing, you should reduce power and get to a mechanic right away. The blinking check engine light meaning could be an engine misfire so severe that:

  • Unburned fuel is being dumped into the exhaust system
  • The catalytic converter could quickly become damaged
  • You could face expensive repairs

But what if the light is shining steadily and you don’t notice any change in your car’s performance? Your vehicle still has a problem, just not one that demands immediate attention. So please don’t wait until your next scheduled tune-up to have it checked out. Make an appointment as soon as you can to avoid issues like:

  • Reduced fuel economy 
  • Increased emission of hydrocarbons or other pollutants

If You Must Drive with the CEL or MIL On …

Let’s say you noticed the engine warning light on Thursday. It’s steady, not flashing, and you plan to bring your car into Jiffy Lube on Saturday. Is there anything you can do to mitigate engine damage in the meantime? Try these three steps:

  1. Give all your dashboard gauges and lights a once over, looking for indications of low oil pressure or overheating. If these conditions are present, pull over to a safe spot, shut off the engine, and let your vehicle cool down.
  2. Try tightening your fuel cap. It sounds simple, but it often does the trick! Keep in mind it might take several trips before the light resets. (If your vehicle has a separate indicator that warns of a loose gas cap, check that, too.)
  3. Reduce speed and load. Driving at high speeds or overloading your car can put a strain on the engine.  

The CEL/MIL Is Part of Your Car’s Onboard Diagnostics System.
Since the late 1970s, computers increasingly have controlled and monitored vehicle performance, regulating variables such as:

  • Engine idle speed
  • Fuel mixture
  • Ignition timing

When a problem is detected in the electronic-control system that it can’t correct, a computer turns on the yellow warning CEL/MIL. In addition to illuminating the light, the computer stores a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) in its memory. The DTC identifies the source of the problem and can be read with an electronic scan tool or a diagnostic computer.

Jiffy Lube Technicians Are Trained in Diagnostics.

When you bring your car to Jiffy Lube because the CEL/MIL is on, one of the first things the technician will do is use a scanner to read the DTC generated by the light. You’ll receive a written description of the results. This is when you are welcome to ask the Jiffy Lube technician any questions you may have.

Straight Talk Is Important to Preventive Maintenance.

Count on conversation when you come to Jiffy Lube. Expect to be asked about your driving habits — like whether you drive in extreme temperatures or at prolonged high speeds. Based on your answers, and the manufacturer recommendations for your specific vehicle, the Jiffy Lube technician will be able to perform the services that can help keep your car, SUV, minivan, or truck out of the shop and on the road, where it belongs. 

Jiffy Lube technician talking with a woman about what was found during the diagnostic test for a check engine light

Read More About It.

Intrigued by diagnostic tests? Here’s an article about the Jiffy Lube Engine Diagnostics.

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Please note: Not all services are offered at each Jiffy Lube location. Please check with your local Jiffy Lube service center or visit for specific services offered.