HELP... my engine light is on!

this morning my check engine light came on and my car started smoking! i also noticed that my temp gage didnt go past c as i was driving, what might it be???

- female in distress

I wouldn’t run the engine any more until it gets checked out. You could do more damage. The smoke is not a good thing, as you can guess. It cood be coolant or oil!

You maybe have a coolant leak or bad head gasket. The temperature guage is not getting into the normal range probably because the sensor that checks the temperature is now surrounded by air. It should be submerged in coolant, but the coolant level is too low. The light is probably telling you about the low temperature. Surprisingly, you can be indicating a too low temperature even if the car is getting too hot (overheating). This is characteristic of low coolant.

Make other plans for a ride. Have it checked out where it sits by someone that knows what they’re doing or get it towed to a reliable shop.

Good Luck!

People trying to help you always want to know:
Car Make, Model, miles, automatic transmission/manual transmission, and which engine you have, if you know.

Let us know.

If it’s still running take it to Autozone and get the code read for free and let us know what the exact code was, i.e. P0171, P0141, etc. They can only read newer than (I think) 95’s because of the scanner they use. Also, it is customary to put the make, model and year on posts so that we know what we’re talking about here.

Curious, is it smoke or steam. Check all your fluids: oil, coolant, tranny fluid if you can. Where is the smoke/steam coming from? Engine or exhaust?

We need any additional information if you have it, so that we can help you with this issue.


If your car has suddenly started smoking, it should not be driven until the cause has been identified. What you perceive to be smoke could actually be steam from an overheating engine, and driving the car in that condition could permanently damage the engine. Or it could genuinely be smoke, and the cause of that situation could range from simple oil burning, to a smoldering electrical fire from a short circuit to…? Regarding the cause of the smoke, nobody can examine your car from this distance, and the possibilities are numerous.

As to the Check Engine Light (CEL), a scan of the car’s OBD system will reveal the stored trouble codes that identify the reason for the light being illuminated. Normally, I would suggest that you have the scan done, free-of-charge, at Auto Zone, Advance Auto, Reilly Auto, etc., but with the new smoke condition, I do not recommend that you drive the car right now.

The temperature gauge problem could be merely a bad temperature sensor, or it could be related to the condition that led to the CEL lighting up.

I really think that you should have this car towed to a trusted mechanic (NOT a chain operation like Midas, Meineke, Monro, Sears, Firestone, Goodyear, etc) for examination and repair.

Good luck, and please post back with an update on the car’s condition.

thanks for the info guys…
my car is a 2002 lexus is300…
i had some of my co workers check it out this morning and a couple of them said it was a busted tube to my radiator, so im guessing im going to have replace it pretty soon!! any one knows how much a radiator would run me??

Be nice to that Lexus!

I still would not drive with the guage on “c” and not moving to the “normal” range.

The coolant in the radiator and overflow reservoir must have been down, due to the leak. The smoke you saw was maybe steam from the radiator, not necessarily from engine damage, yet.

You can possibly refill with the proper coolant mixture and drive a little, but you run the risk of getting low on coolant again, having air trapped in the cooling system, and doing very expensive damage, unnecessarily.

If that guage isn’t coming into the normal range within a couple minutes of driving (and staying there) then you can blow the engine.

You wouldn’t walk to the doctor on a broken leg, would you?
Call the Lexus ambulance!

P.S. If you haven’t done engine damage yet, by driving it, then you are hundreds of dollars ahead of the game right now and very fortunate.

Basically your coolant sensor had little to no fluid on it so it registered C. The coolant sensor tripped your check engine light as your engine was confused likely being in a running state but temperature reading non-existent or out of range.

DO NOT DRIVE your vehicle in this state. You may well be overheating the engine (guage will not register this) and it will demolish your engine.

Your replacement will likely range $500-$1000 as it is a Lexus and not a Toyota knock off like the ES300/RX300. Alternatively it may be a simple hose (your words tube).