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Check engine light will turn on after I start the car, can I still drive the car from New Orleans to New Jersey?

Hi there,

I have a 2002 VW new beetle. The car has about 110K miles on it. For last year or so, after I started the car, the check engine light will be on shortly. I took the car to the dealer and they couldn’t fix it.

Now I have decided to move from New Orleans to New Jersey and I am wondering if I can drive my car without any problems? I would greatly appreciate any insight into what can be done with the car.


We’d need to know why the check engine light is coming on. If the dealership “couldn’t fix it” because they did not know what is wrong with it, then they’re morons and you need to find another mechanic.

In the meantime, take it to the nearest Autozone and ask them to read your codes for you. Then come back here and tell us what they are. They will most likely be a “P” followed by 4 numbers. We need that actual numerical code, not whatever the clerk thinks it means.


I have no idea what inspection in NJ is like. But, in some places, a CEL fails your car. so, yeah, you gottta’ get it fixed. As far as driving it that far. Dan’l Boone didn’t have a nice OBDII car and made such long trips. So, yes, maybe you can make it. I think most of us would not recommend it, though. Still, the worst that can happen is, it blows up and you have to rent a wreck to get your stuff to NJ then get another car. Work with the guys here and see if you can’t find what the problem is.

Well, you’ve been driving it for a year or so with the light on, why would you think driving from NO to NJ would be a problem?

Seriously, though, it needs to be fixed. As @shadowfax said, if the dealer doesn’t know what the problem is, they are morons. Take it elsewhere. At least have the codes read at Autozone or O’Reilly’s and post back.


NJ inspection now consists solely of checking emissions via the OBD II connector, but–as you surmised–a lit-up CEL automatically means that you have failed inspection.

So, to summarize for the OP, a visit to your nearest Autozone, Advance Auto, O’Reilly, or (possibly) NAPA will allow you to learn–and report to us–the trouble codes that have been stored. And, as long as the CEL isn’t blinking, the car should be “safe” to drive, but–of course–that does not guarantee that you will be able to complete the trip w/o a mechanical breakdown, so resolving the problem before your trip–with a different mechanic–is recommended.

This situation causes me to wonder about the car’s maintenance, because poor/lax maintenance can be the cause of some/many CEL situations. What can the OP tell us–specifically–about the car’s maintenance? Please don’t give us generalities such as, “the car has been well-maintained”. We need to know exactly what maintenance your car has had over the past 30k miles.*

My crystal ball is broken. Actually i appreciate your concern and were I in your shoes I would find another dealer to check out the light. Or go to a reputable garage. Do not continue driving the car and definitely don’t take it on a long trip until the light problem is solved. It came on for a reason. It’s considered a warning light.

I’m not quite so hasty to condemn the dealer.

You state the dealer could not fix it. What does that mean? No codes came up? Codes came up but there was no idea how to proceed from there or what?

I had a check engine light in my Olds for years. It was due to the EGR. Tried both the shop and dealer to no avail. New $500 EGR didn’t work. Dealer finally said they would need to clean the passages which with the Northstar V8 meant pulling the transmission to get at them. I just disconnected the EGR but this is not New Jersey. Never thought about the inspection but worst case the car doesn’t make it and then at least you’ll find the problem.