CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Check Engine Light

On a 2006 Dodge Stratus does the check engine light really mean anything? I bought the car from CarMax without the extended warranty. Will it cost a fortune to find out what the deal is?

Those Dodge engineers are a bunch of jokers. They just put that Check Engine Light in the instrument panel for fun. Doesn’t mean a thing. They were just using up extra light bulbs that were lying around the factory. Ha, ha. Isn’t that funny?

The check engine light is an early warning system. It comes on to alert you to a problem before the problem gets bigger and more expensive to fix.

Many auto parts stores will scan the car’s computer for trouble codes without charge. The trouble code will give you some indication of where the problem is.

The problem could be very simple, but you’ll never know if you don’t have it checked out.

The light may go off by itself after a few start cycles. If it stays on more than a day or two, don’t ignore it.

That CEL (check engine light) is just a kid in class waving her hand trying to get you attention because she has the answer. You need to have the codes read. Some places will read them for FREE. Try Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts. Get the exact code (like P1234) not just their translation into English and post it back here. 

Regarding warning lights:

  1. if the coolant temp light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  2. if the oil warning light comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

  3. if a FLASHING MIL/CEL comes on, shut off the engine ASAP

    ASAP means driving to the berm of the highway right now and not waiting for the next exit.

But if the MIL/CEL is not flashing, then it’s not an urgent indicator.