A modern car has computers and sensors to make sure everything is running at peak performance. If something isn’t right, or if a certain system is active, a light will light up on the dashboard. But what do they all mean?

Some lights are just there to show you something is working properly. Other lights indicate a problem or safety risk to the car. Here are five different lights that might light up on your dash, including the check engine light, and if there’s anything you need to do when you see it.


[tps_title]Check Engine Light[/tps_title]

check engine light

The Check Engine Light (CEL) signifies a problem with the emissions controls on the vehicle. Emissions controls are the features built into your car to ensure that the gasses leaving your car are as clean as they can be.

CELs can occur for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is failing to tighten your gas cap after refueling. If your gas cap is getting old and can no longer seal tightly, the CEL will also light up.

Your car has several oxygen sensors to check the dirty exhaust gasses leaving your car. When one of these sensors fails, a CEL will illuminate.

Places like Autozone will attach a scanner to your car and tell you for free why your check engine light is on. If it’s the gas cap, they’ll reset the light for you and you can be on your way. If it’s something more serious, you should schedule an appointment with a mechanic that you trust.

On vehicles equipped with GM’s OnStar system and have an active subscription, pressing the blue OnStar button will connect you to a person who can remotely diagnose and clear the check engine light. If the problem is more serious, they can schedule a service department visit for you.

READ: OnStar’s 4 Most Useful Features

Some people ignore the CEL because it often doesn’t mean a catastrophic engine failure. But emissions controls are important, especially if you live in an area where you have to pass a smog check to register your car. Also, the light could be an indicator of a bigger problem. You should not ignore it.

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