The beater that stopped beating

I own a 2001 Buick Century Limited that has 208k miles on it. A couple days ago I started the car up at a friends house and noticed that it had a loud rough idle and that the check engine light came on. When I drove the car home, the CEL would flash when I accelerated and I could smell something burning. When I released the gas pedal and coasted, the flashing CEL would return back to a solid state but I could still smell the burning. When I would accelerate, the CEL would start to flash again. Whenever I was stopped at a stop sign, the flashing CEL would again be solid and there would be a loud rough idle along with the same burning smell. Am I looking at an engine replacement or an easy fix? One problem or could it be multiple problems?

Via cyberspace, nobody could possibly give you an accurate diagnosis, but I can tell you that if you continue to drive a car with a flashing CEL, you will multiply the cost of whatever repairs are currently needed.

The first step is to have the stored trouble codes “read”, and this can be done by somebody at an auto parts store (Auto Zone, Advance, O’Reilly, and possibly Napa). Then, if you post those codes in this thread, some of us can give you more specific advice. The codes will be in a format similar to “P0123”.

Right now, the only driving that you should be doing is to an auto parts store or a mechanic’s shop.

How near is a parts store, Auto-Zone or Advance, etc.? They will read the error code your computer set when the CEL came on. It could be something as simple as a plug wire or a piece of rubber hose needing replacing. But with the light flashing it is not advisable to drive very far as the problem will likely quickly escalate to become much more costly. If you have a regular mechanic this is a good time to call him.

If you do get to a parts store and get the code read post the results here.

Take a look around and see if you can see what’s burning. As the smart and wise @VDCdriver and @“Rod Knox” said, take it to the parts store and get the codes read. Report back with the 4 digit codes and we can try to help.

When your check engine light is flashing it means stop driving now. It is flashing because your egine is misfiring and the fuel going into the cylinders is going unburnt out the exhaust where it is probably is burning inside your catalytic converter. Your converter is probably glowing red and that, or the carpet above it, is what you smell. When was the last time the plugs were replaced?

GMs of that era, flashing CEL means there’s a very serious problem that makes the car unsafe to drive. PULL OVER IMMEDIATELY and tow it. Don’t get yourself or someone else killed.

If you’re going to be doing DIY work, you will want an OBD-II setup. I use Torque Pro and an OBDLink LX, far and away the best setup you can get under $100. That’ll not only get you the DTCs but let you watch other ECM telemetry to get a clear picture of what’s going on inside the engine.

As everyone else has said, first step of troubleshooting is the DTCs. You’re shooting in pitch black without them.

any OBD2 car with a flashing MIL means severe misfire

it has nothing to do with the brand of the vehicle

Flashing CEL can mean other things, ex. power brakes failure or (on cars with the sensor) cat temperature dangerously high. It’s probably a misfire here though.

I think it’s time to read the part in your owners manual about the CEL light, and what to do if it’s flashing. It won’t tell you what’s wrong, but it could save you from doing permanent damage that may cost you $2000 to $4000 in replacing an engine.

I suppose a flashing crosswalk sign with a herd of kids standing on the corner, might just be a decoration to show off the design of the sign. Ignore the kids until one steps out in front of your car, then yell at the kid for making you wait.

Sorry @Eric2015 I mean to direct this to everyone who ignores a flashing CEL.
A tow and diagnosis by a qualified mechanic would cost less than $300…that’s cheap compared to toasting your engine driving it anywhere. Get a tow!!!



Please post a copy of an owner’s manual page that states that a check engine light means “power brakes failure”