What Does a Flashing Check Engine Light Mean?

flashing check engine light

Everyone knows it’s time to take the car to the auto shop when the “check engine” light turns on.

But what happens if the check engine light starts flashing?

That means there’s something serious going on in your engine, and you need to get the problem addressed right away. If you don’t you could end up with some serious damages on your hands.

Take a look at this guide to learn what a flashing check engine light means and what you need to do about it.

Is a Flashing Check Engine Light Serious?


A flashing CEL is much more serious than a normal check engine light. If your check engine light keeps flashing, that means the engine of your vehicle is misfiring.

This is more urgent than a normal issue that might trigger the check engine light. So if your CEL starts flashing, you need to get it into an auto shop as soon as possible.

What Happens When a Vehicle Misfires?

When the crankshaft turns, your engine should combust the air and fuel, otherwise known as firing. When a cylinder doesn’t fire at the time it’s supposed to, it’s misfiring.

In other words, when an engine misfires, the cylinders don’t provide enough power to the car. This means the fuel might make it into the catalytic converter.

Your car will probably shake when this happens and have trouble running.

The Dangers of a Misfire

If you don’t get this engine malfunction repaired right away, you might end up with even more serious damages. Your car might stop running altogether.

Continuing to drive your car when your check engine light is flashing could even result in a car fire.

Taking care of a misfire as soon as you notice it will save you money on repairs and will keep your car safe to drive.

Common Causes of an Engine Misfire

There are a few different things that can cause your engine to misfire. Some of these problems are easier and less expensive to fix than others, but they are all serious issues that should be addressed right away.

Here’s a quick look at three of the most common misfire causes.

Ignition Defect: A single defect in the ignition system can result in an engine misfire. This could include problems with the ignition wire, coils, spark plugs, distributor cap, and rotor. Your misfire is most likely caused by one of these problems, which is what you want. They are the cheapest misfires to correct.

Fuel Defect: Think of things like the fuel injectors. This will take longer and cost more to fix than ignition problems.

Internal Engine Defect: You don’t want this to be the cause of your misfire. This is the most expensive type of misfire repair out there because of the parts required to fix it. Parts might include pistons, rings, cylinder head, and the timing belt.

Get Your Flashing Check Engine Light Looked at Right Away

A flashing check engine light means there’s something very wrong happening inside your engine. Don’t put this off. If you do, you could end up with serious damages and, even worse, be risking your own safety.

Need help figuring out why your check engine light is on? Take a look at this check engine diagnostics post.