Ignore Your Check Engine Light? You’re Definitely Not Alone

Do you panic when your check engine light pops on? Or are you the other type that ignores it until the light burns itself out? Believe it or not, if you’re in the second group you’re definitely not alone. That’s because a survey was recently conducted of 1,239 US drivers to find out how they respond to that dreaded Check Engine light.

64% of these respondents say they don’t do anything

The drivers surveyed were people who drive on a regular basis. Granted, it’s a small sliver of people. Still, the survey, conducted by reviews.com represents a small cross-section of drivers. What it found was that 64% of these respondents say they don’t do anything for the first week after seeing the check engine light. 

Check Engine light
Check Engine light

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Waiting between a month and a year was almost 30%, with 25% admitting they never get the problem looked at. And almost 10% say they do nothing until it becomes apparent there is a problem. These are surprising numbers because at least anecdotally we presumed that many drivers almost go into full panic once the light lights up. 

If you were expecting this was happening more with women than men you would be wrong. The survey says virtually a third of men are most likely to never have the light checked out. For women, the number drops to 18.4%. And older drivers are more likely to get the vehicle looked at.

Above the age of 45, 43.4% get the Check Engine light looked at immediately

Above the age of 45, 43.4% of respondents get the issue looked at immediately. Below the age of 35, the amount doing that drops to only 25.6%. That’s the opposite of what you would expect because younger people tend to not have extra money laying around for expensive repairs. So one would think that any problem would be addressed quickly before turning into something more serious, and expensive. 

check engine symbol
Check Engine symbol

The study does not go into why respondents behave a certain way toward the check engine light. But the survey definitely leans toward drivers ignoring the light. That is, as long as there is nothing that actually changes how the vehicle runs. They tend to think it is a false reading or maybe an emission sensor gone bad. 

Look, you should take the Check Engine light seriously

The thing is that you should take the light seriously. Most repair shops will diagnose what the light is indicating for free. For those that are more curious but don’t trust what the shop says there are a lot of code readers on the market-many under $35. And a reader is easy to use. The most effort it takes is to find out where to plug it into your car’s OBD2 diagnostics. 

But you shouldn’t ignore it. If it is an O2-sensor or loose gas cap it is a free or fairly inexpensive fix. But if it’s something more serious it could lead to a more catastrophic conclusion, and you obviously don’t want that. Look, your car is talking to you. That’s a good thing coming from an inanimate object.