Flashing CEL

Okay, I know that a flashing Check Engine Light on any car means pull over immediately. It happened to me today (fortunately in front of my house) in my RAV4. Here’s probably a dumb question: I live less than a mile from the place that I have my car serviced. Should I absolutely without question have my extremely low-mileage 2009 RAV4 towed to be serviced or is it possible that driving 9/10ths of a mile would not cause unrepairable or highly expensive damage? My speed would be 25 mph maximum (in case that matters).

Don’t rely on me but I think it depends on what the the trouble code that is stored is. All I can say is I ruined a cat in my garage in about 10 minutes due to a misfire. It was a $700 part.

Does the cel flash on a cold start? Today?

I’d have it towed.

A flashing Check Engine light indicates a major misfire is occurring.

The rule of thumb is that if the check engine light is flashing, you can’t keep driving the car . It’s an emergency. Often it indicates an engine misfire. If you keep driving, you will likely cause irreversible damage, mostly to the (expensive) catalytic converter.


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Less than a mile? I’d check the oil level, just to make sure that was fine, then gamble on driving it. That’s just me. I’m a gambler. And it’s 9/10 of a mile…

Possibly the CEL won’t even be flashing on a cold start. That would be ideal.

Gambler ? You don’t trust Oil Life Monitor but you are telling this person to drive with a flashing CEL ?

For less than a mile, yes I would. Depending on what the tow fee is.

I love people who give bad advice that may result in expensive damage.

Yet, don’t offer to pay those damages when following that bad advice.



Nice if you knew which cyl it was and unplug injector for 1 mile drive.

I don’t see you offering to pay the towing fee. That will definitely occur.

Today I found my OBDII Scanner and this is what I found. Note: When I started up the RAV4 the CEL didn’t flash but did stay lit as I ran the engine for about 3 or 4 minutes. The codes were PO300, PO303, PO305 and PO335. I googled the codes and I decided I definitely need to call a tow truck for the trip to the shop. Thanks to all for your input and any other thoughts or questions you might have.

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Looks like a crankshaft position code, which is probably responsible for all those other misfire codes. Hopefully it’s a quick and easy fix. Good luck and let us know the resolution.

Thanks for the response. I’ll post the result. I won’t be bringing it in until next Wednesday. This is not my main car so I scheduled the service at a time most convenient for me.

No, the CEL didn’t flash today on a cold start.

Drive a 1/2 mile on a side street. Shut if off for 5 minutes to cool down the catalytic converter. Then drive the next 1/2 mile. If it breaks down you can park on the side street.

Your advice is a tempting alternative but I suspect the risk is not worth the benefit.


The shop that you take it to will probably run it for a few minutes after you leave anyway. They’ll try to drive it from the parking spot to the lift almost for sure.

Well, I brought the RAV4 to the shop today - a day later than I originally planned - and they checked it out and said they need to replace the Crankshaft Position Sensor but they had to order it and will install it tomorrow. I’ll post an update here in case anyone is interested.

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Thanks for the update. Hopefully that sensor replacement will get you sorted out. Should be a relatively cheap repair.

If I saw this flashing, I would not care what the engine code was, I’d pull over… And yes, it can be expensive… and dangerous!

And if you do not agree with my reply, it’s because we’re “cats of a different color…”