Check engine lights not inspiring the urgency they should
Survey looked at US drivers and their CEL habits
Are you one of those drivers who has had their little check engine light on for so long that you’re wondering if you can claim it as a dependent? You’re not alone, says a new survey, which found that a quarter of vehicle owners will never ever get their check engine light checked once it powers on. Though that’s not the only surprise in this data.
We know that the check engine light can be an elusive thing to track down, telling you a fault code but not always giving you a clue as to where the real problem lies. And that can cost you more money than just doing nothing, because, after all, it’s still running fine, right?
A new survey of 1,239 US residents by Reviews.com (via The Drive) sheds a shining light on the habits of drivers and their warning lights. The survey found that only 36.1 percent of people take their car to a mechanic within the first week of the CEL illuminating.
That doesn’t seem unreasonable, especially with busy lives and a wait to get into a good shop, but 29.6 percent of people said they would wait between one month and a full year before getting that light checked out. Which seems a bit extreme, even to us.
25 percent say they will never (yes, never) get their light checked, and 9.2 percent said they wait until there is an obvious problem. Because a check engine light isn’t obvious enough, we suppose.
Why don’t they check it out? “I don’t want to know what’s wrong. It’s probably something I can’t afford to worry about right now,” said one respondent. Another said that “I drive a Toyota older than me, the check engine light has been on for over two years and I haven’t noticed any real problems.”
To the surprise of approximately zero people, 32 percent of men say they will never get the light checked, compared with just 18.4 percent of women. Nearly half of those over age 45 will take their car in immediately, compared with 26.6 percent of those under 35, which is probably related to economic and time constraints.
We don’t recommend waiting on that light, because something small (like a lean-running condition) can quickly turn into something far more expensive (like a failed catalytic converter or entire engine). If that light starts to flash, make a mechanic your first dash.