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24th March 2022

Why has my car’s engine management light turned on?

This blog tells you where to find your engine management light, what it looks like and what may have caused it to come on.

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If the engine management light on your car or van illuminates, it could mean you have a problem and you had better get the vehicle to the garage as soon as possible.

Here the breakdown experts at Sterling Rescue tell you where to find  your engine management light (EML), what it looks like and what may have caused it to come on.

Where is my car’s engine management light?

The engine management light is located in the cluster of warning lights on your dashboard behind the steering wheel. Read our blog to find out about other warning lights you will find on your dashboard.

What does the engine management light look like?

engine management light

It’s normally the shape of an engine block and it may be accompanied by “check engine” wording.

What does the engine management light tell you?

The EML is an engine warning light but it doesn’t alert you to a specific fault. A flashing or continuous light tells you there might be a problem with the engine. It could be a minor issue or a major one so you may well need to get to the garage as soon as possible. 

Cars have sensors to check everything is working at its optimum level. When they malfunction, the sensor will tell the engine control unit (ECU), which turns on the EML. 

What causes the EML to come on?

There are a number of routine reasons that the EML will illuminate. Here are five of the most common.

  1. Oxygen sensor error

If the sensor detects your vehicle’s fuel is too rich (i.e. it doesn’t have enough air in the mix) or too lean (i.e. there’s too much air in the mix), the EML will probably turn on and your car will need a retune. It may also light up if there’s a fault with the sensor.

  1. Blocked diesel particulate filter

The diesel particulate filter (DPF) captures exhaust soot to help your engine pollute less. If there’s a fault with the DPF or the differential pressure sensor – which lets your car know the status of the DPF – the EML will probably light up. 

  1. Mass airflow sensor

Your car’s electronic control unit relies on the mass airflow sensor to work out how much fuel to add to the combustion chambers and correlate the amount of air coming into the engine.

If the air filter is missing, damaged or blocked, this can cause the EML to come on.

  1. Ignition system fault

If you have a petrol car, problems with your spark plugs or coil may cause the engine warning light to turn on.

  1.  Loose dipstick

The EML may well light up if your dipstick is not positioned securely. This often happens after you have checked the oil. Make sure the dipstick has been put back properly and see if the problem goes away. 

engine management light

Will my car fail its MOT if the EML comes on?

An amber or red engine warning light that stays on when the engine has been started is classed as a major fault and your car will fail its MOT test. 

Is it safe to drive with the engine management light on?

If the EML illuminates you can usually carry on driving to your destination if you don’t have too far to go, but you will need to investigate the problem or get expert advice as soon as possible.

However, if there are other issues with your vehicle, or the EML is red or flashing while the engine is on, this could indicate a more serious problem. If this happens, you should:

  1. Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  2. Switch off the engine.
  3. Contact a garage or someone to tow you home.

Sterling breakdown cover is available from £25.42 a year. We can arrange roadside recovery 24 hours a day whether your car or van breaks down in the UK, Europe or further afield. We also offer instant breakdown cover if your vehicle breaks down and you haven’t already taken out breakdown cover.

Call Sterling on 0344 381 9959 for a swift no obligation motor insurance quote or book a callback at a time that suits you. 

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