Mazda 1996 Protege "check engine light"

100000 miles on car, what does check engine light REALLY mean?

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 P0123) 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.

What it really means is that something within the engine management and control system is starting to operate out of tolerance, and the computer is warning you now, while it’s simple and inexpensive to correct.

Ignore this warning at your peril, because if you don’t have the problem (whatever it is) diagnosed and repaired, it will continue to get worse, and eventually cost more money, or possibly cause the car to stop running.

The light means “I need something.” Find out what your car needs and fix it. Then you can continue to drive worry-free.