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P0301 flashing engine light - how far can I drive

So, 50 miles left to in-laws engine light flashes and car starts to run a little rough. We make it. Dad has a code reader and we read P0301. Can we drive the 350 miles back in Thanksgiving traffic (Northeast traffic) and mechanics and be okay? Alternative options?

Having a flashing CEL especially combined with a mis-fire code means that further driving will mostly likely mean more and expensive damage. A mis-firing cylinder can completely destroy a catalytic converter in just a few minutes/miles much less trying for hours/350 miles.


when or why do things break? after driving 300 miles the misfire starts? due to heat? poor gas? the angle of the sun?

Well, we don’t know the age, the odometer mileage, or–most importantly–the maintenance history of this Odyssey. More than likely, the spark plugs are way overdue for changing, and/or a coil has gone bad.

In any event, the OP would be very foolish to drive this vehicle anywhere at this point except to a nearby repair facility.

Who knows why things break when they do. A couple of weeks ago, I went out to mulch up leaves. The mower I like to use quit after I had done about 1/4 of the back yard. It wouldn’t restart, so I got out the other mower. I finished the back yard and had done about 1/8 of the front yard when it stopped and wouldn’t restart. In desperation, I got out the battery powered mower I bought used three years ago. I got through the front yard when the batteries completely lost their charge. I knew the batteries were weak at the beginning of the season, but I wanted to see how long I could stretch them.
At any rate, in both my gasoline mowers the spark plugs had failed. I replaced the plug in each mower and both restarted instantly. I had put in a new spark plug in each mower at the beginning of the season last spring as I always do. Four dollars worth of spark plugs got me going again.

Failed plugs on 2 mowers? Nah. I bet it is fuel issues. Letting a small gas motor sit for a bit let’s the crud in carb a chance to resettle. I say drain bowl, clean it out, clean jet and maybe flush gas tank

The mowers had both been used weekly and fired right up and continued to run after I replaced the spark plugs. I had filled each tank with fresh gas before I started each one to mulch leaves. I have used one mower since that incident with no problems.
I was a little worried because one mower I purchased in 1988. It has a Tecumseh engine which is no longer made and parts may not be available. The other mower I bought in 1992. The engine is a Briggs & Stratton Quantum for which parts are available for the engine, but the mower itself is a Homelite-Jacobsen and even blades are no longer available. The spark plugs I removed from the mowers were pretty badly carboned up.

An alternative option would be to rent a car and make the drive home, while your van is being looked at by a mechanic.

It’s much less convenient now to have to rent a car… but you’re going to be inconvenienced, at the very least, if you burn up your engine and/or cause other serious damage to your Odyssey now.

Slow down and think about it. Good luck.

OP shouldn’t attempt the drive, or even drive the vehicle at all, with a flashing check engine light. That light flashing means there’s a problem that requires immediate att’n . On the other hand it doesn’t mean it will be a time consuming or expensive to fix problem. p0301 means there’s a misfire on just one cylinder, cylinder number 1. So first thing a shop would check, a visual check is all, are there any electric connectors that have come undone affecting that cylinder?

@Paul_Lee What did you do? Get the Odyssey fixed?Rent a car and drive home? Drive home with CEL flashing?

So, what we should have done is gotten it fixed on Saturday when the mechanic shop was open neareby. We did not. We drove it home (350 miles). I drove it to the mechanics. From all I read the worst I could do is kill the catalytic converter. I’m hoping I didn’t, but I’ll hear the news soon. My father in-law was certain it was just the one cylinder and because it is a 6 cylinder he didn’t think we could do damage to the car. I trust him when it comes to cars (we’ll find out if he was right!).

Further info for others who may have been interested. We do all the maintenance recommended on the car. It has 135K on it (2011, I got it 3 years ago with 45K on it, so we put 30K on it a year - lots of highway driving, lots of family trips). Regular oil changes and maintenance.

We may have been due to change our spark plugs. I would have to ask my mechanic but if I had to guess, I think it was about 1.5 years ago. So that would put about 45K on the current spark plugs and coils.

I’ll give an update to let you all know how bad the damage was! (I’ll find out later this morning!)

I have always been concerned about having problems on the highway, particularly around vacation time. Glad you made it back home.

Don’t do that anymore, because he wasn’t. :wink:

This is kind of like saying “well I have two lungs, so as long as I keep the carcinoma confined to one of them I can keep smoking.”


+1 to all of shadowfax’s comments on this topic!

While the OP’s father-in-law will almost surely wind-up with a higher repair bill than if he did the right thing with his Odyssey, at least the OP can feel good about trying to help his FIL.

Actually , it is the other way around . The vehicle belongs to the OP and the father-in-law said to drive it . Maybe nothing bad happened to the vehicle .

Update: We did not kill the catalytic converter. They changed all the spark plugs (which were not in good shape. We should have done that at the in-laws instead of risking it. I know that now!) and did the oil change (regular maintenance stuff). So, good news all around.

Now might be a good time to check the recommended service schedule to possibly avoid future problems . Nothing against your FIL but he may not be current on vehicles maintenance .

Actually, probably should have done the spark plugs the last time we did the oil change. Mechanic was surprised I had so many miles on it since it hasn’t been long (time wise) since we did them. :slight_smile: I’ll check with them to make sure we’re on top of those. You’re right but I can never say anything against FIL. He’s the absolute best FIL in the world.

I am wondering if by changing the spark plugs you treated the symptoms but not the cause. In most cars today, spark plugs last more than 45,000 miles.
One question I have us how much oil do you add between changes? My second question is about your gasoline mileage. If your mileage is low, the fuel mixture may be too rich.

You could be right about the spark plugs. Not sure when we changed it though, so I’ll double check with Mech and see.

  1. I usually do not need to add any oil between changes.
  2. Mileage usually is 23 miles per gallon, higher for highway miles, lower for in-town driving. Average depends on what the mix was but 23 is pretty consistent with what we usually do. It seems to have dropped off a bit from a few years ago. But that could be a result of the mix of driving and the different drivers / driving styles.