Check-engine light on? Check with a professional.

If your vehicle’s check-engine light goes on, don’t ignore it.

Having it checked by a professional can make a big difference in long-term cost savings because it can signal anything from an expensive engine repair to something as simple as a loose gas cap.

The check engine light is part of your car’s onboard diagnostics OBD system and an indicator of the condition of your car’s emissions system. If it does go on, the light will do one of two things: blink, or remain constant.

In either case, you’ll need the problem fixed and the light turned off in order for your vehicle to pass state inspection. According to CarMD.com ten percent of all cars on the road have a check engine light on, and more than half of them have been on for more than three months.

If it’s blinking, get to a mechanic immediately, if not sooner. That blinking usually means a severe engine misfire, which lets unburned fuel into the exhaust system, overheating and damaging the catalytic converter, which for you, means high cost. If the light is steady, the problem is not an immediate emergency, but have your vehicle checked as soon as possible.

In the meantime, there are things you can do. If you’re lucky, the problem is only a loose gas cap. Check it to make sure it’s on tight. Some, but not all, cars have indicators for this. You may also have to drive for a few days for the light to reset itself.

Bottom line, have a trusted mechanic diagnose the problem and get it fixed before it becomes an expensive repair.

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