1997 Catera Engine Warning Light On Idles Rough

Yesterday, out of clear blue, engine warning light came on. Occasionally it has done so on very intermittment basis. Turning car off, counting to ten, restarting and light sequence corrects (it goes on but does then go off). Yesterday, all lights went on and off, except the warning light. Last night topped off the smallest amount of antifreeze after cool down. This am, car starts with all lights going on then off except warning light. Elec looks to be about 12 V; oil apprears to be about 38 at idle; temp reads where it always has about in middle of guage. It idles to begin with at about 1100 rpm then as it warms up it drops to about 750 rpm when “normal” warm. Can feel idle through steering wheel. Not rough but still off. Exhaust smells sweet after warm up. No puff of any smoke. Just had oil changed (extended miles) mix of 4 qts 5-30 and 2 qts 10-30 as that is what shop always go to had on hand. Also just filled up at a usually steady volume “service” station. I don’t think the gas sits there very long. Once warm, the warning light takes about 44 seconds to begin blinking. It blinks for 19 times. It did this three times in sequence with a ten second wait for security to reset. The check engine light, according to manual, is principally to monitor fuel, ignition and emmission control systems. What is the proper sequence for fixing what light might indicate? Is it safe to drive the 35 miles to mechanic? Insight appreciated. Thanks.

As long as the engine oil and coolant levels are ok (and it sounds like they are) you should be able to drive the car into the shop with no problem. The sweet smell in the exhaust may indicate there is a coolant leak into the exhaust system somehow. The error codes stored in the ECU will help determine what is going on with the engine and a shop can look into that. The blinking CEL light means a more serious problem has been detected and you need to get service done real soon.

Man, you simply have to stop ignoring repeated warning lights. The triggers for them do not fix themselves. Yes, the CEL light is principally to monitor fuel, ignition, and emission comtrol systems…and that’s everything important on the engine! That’s a whole bunch of sensors many of which are giving you clues to a problem that if not addressed can allow your engine to self destruct! Or in many cases cause the final bill to be hundreds more than it would have been.

Right now you have to get the car to a shop and let them download the codes and do the diagnosis. Don’t be surprised if your repair bill is a whopper.

I will emphasize what Cougar said about the blinking light. If it is blinking, do not drive it anywhere - certainly not 35 miles - and you must have it figured out or fixed. You could be turning a relatively small problem into a really bad one.

And based on the “sweet” smell of the exhaust brace yourself for the possibility of a bad head gasket (so it is possible that you have a bad problem already).