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What Does It Mean When You See A Flashing Check Engine?

You must be wondering why the check engine light is blinking. It is a rare occurrence to see the check engine light flash compared to other. Read More

You must be wondering why the check engine light is blinking. It is a rare occurrence to see the check engine light flash compared to other car symbols that light up on the dashboard display. The reason may be worrisome, but there is nothing to fear as long as you take immediate action as soon as you see the warning signs.

There can be many reasons for the check engine light to flash. Here is a guide to help you understand why and what you should do when you see the check engine light blinking.

What Does It Mean When You See A Flashing Check Engine?


Whenever you start the car, the check engine light always turns on and off within 6 seconds when no problems are detected. When something goes wrong, your car's electronic engine management system (EMS) turns on the check engine light.

The Check Engine Light is a warning symbol that is illuminated when a malfunction or error in engine component or system management is detected. You can usually see 2 variations of warning lights between steady and flashing depending on the problem. A steady check engine light indicates a minor problem, while a flashing check engine light indicates a major problem.

The last thing you want to see on your car's dashboard is a blinking check engine light.

You should never ignore the intermittent signal as it indicates a serious problem with your car's engine. The experience may be painful for you, but irreversible damage can still be avoided.

If the check engine light flashes, avoid driving for long distances as this can cause more damage to your vehicle. In extreme cases, you put yourself and other passengers in your car and other people on the road at risk for a potential hazard such as a fire.

Stopping and calling the towing service is the smartest response you can do when faced with this type of incident.

Why your Check Engine Light is Flashing?

Your car's electronic engine management system (EMS) consists of an engine control unit (ECU) and various subsystems and sensors that collect, analyze and process the necessary data to calculate and distribute the air-fuel mixture required for ignition. In the event that a malfunction is detected, the check engine light will appear to alert you to the problem.

When the light is on, the ECU stores fault codes that can be read and interpreted using on-board diagnostics such as the Dinan OBD2 Scan Tool for example. These generated fault codes can be used by your mechanic to determine repairs and parts that need to be fixed to resolve the problem.

There are many reasons for the check engine light to blink. You may want to check and diagnose your car for the following problems:

  • ignition problem
  • faulty oxygen sensor
  • crankshaft and injector problem
  • Engine control unit failure
  • exhaust problem
  • bad spark plugs/coils
  • exhaust gas recirculation problem
  • catalytic converter damage
  • Faulty or loose fuel/gas cap
  • Faulty Mass Airflow (MAF) Sensor

In most cases, a flashing check engine light indicates a possible engine misfire. A misfire occurs when a cylinder fails to supply the right amount of power to the engine to keep the car running properly.

In some cases, a misfire occurs when the engine is pouring unburned fuel into your vehicle's exhaust system. Excessive amounts of unburned fuel can cause a rapid rise in the temperature of the catalytic converter, resulting in overheating.

This catalytic converter is responsible for separating the pollutant gases and converting them into safe gases which are blown harmlessly into the air. When the catalytic converter is compromised, it leads to sluggish engine performance and possible engine shutdown

Why Your Engine is Misfiring?

Here are three common reasons why your engine may fail:

  • Ignition problem

This is the most common cause of engine misfire. Spark plugs and ignition coils are more likely to cause misfires because these parts wear out and fail over time. They cause problems like improper ignition timing and spark plugs that do not provide a spark to the cylinders. Ignition system faults are the least expensive to repair when the engine fails.

  • Fuel Mixture Problem

 A problem with the fuel mixture can cause your engine to run too lean or too rich. The engine stops when the air-fuel mixture is too light. When there is a high concentration of the air-fuel mixture, the fuel in the ignition chamber is being ignited with too much air or too little fuel, causing your engine to run on less fuel than necessary. This can cause problems when starting the car, slowing down, and even backfire.

The engine is considered rich when there is a lot of fuel and little air. The richer fuel mixture generates more power due to more fuel. This can degrade the catalytic converter, clogging it with a sludge of excess burned fuel. Too much running in the fuel mixture can lead to a rotten egg smell from the exhaust, poor fuel efficiency, and a strong vibration-like odor that can be felt when the car is idling.

  • Low Compression

Low compression due to low power and low speed is another reason for engine misfire. Low compression occurs when the cylinders do not produce the right amount of pressure. A blown head gasket creates this problem because it causes gas to come out of the cylinder due to the gap between the cylinder and the head.

A problem with the pistons that drive your car's motion can also be a source of loss of compression. When the engine overheats, it can puncture the pistons, making them a place for the gas to leak.

There are a number of problems that can cause an engine to fail. It is recommended to keep your engine under control by taking an OBD read. When there are existing problems, this reading helps identify the location of the problem or which cylinder is causing the misfire through the use of the generated fault codes.

Improperly modifying and tuning the engine can affect the performance of the engine and its components. There are many state-of-the-art automotive tuning tools and accessories that can help you strike the best balance between performance and emissions.

What to do when the check engine light is blinking?

As mentioned above, when the check engine light is flashing, the smart thing to do is to pull over as soon as possible and contact a towing service to take you to the nearest mechanic.

While it is technically possible to continue driving, but only for a short distance when the check engine light is on. Do not take the risk of driving when the check engine light is flashing as it can cause serious damage and you will have to pay expensive repair costs.

If you want to avoid such a scenario, it would be best to get something that can help you check and diagnose your car and engine in no time. An OBD reader or a comprehensive diagnostic tool like Pulsar can assist you in this task. It's now more affordable and easier to set up with your laptop using an EDGE cable and other OBD reader accessories.

Remember not to panic when you see the check engine light blinking. Play it safe and let a professional mechanic do the diagnosis and repair

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