Do I Need a Tow with a Check Engine Light On?

Parker Towing Denver towingDo I need a tow with a check engine light on? That’s a good question. Today, Parker Towing provides the answer so that you can be prepared in the case of an emergency. And if the occasion arises, our towing team is ready to take action the moment you call for a check engine light issue or driving dilemma.

Many of us are not familiar with how the check engine light works. Let’s break it down and demystify the inner workings of the check engine light system. That way you’ll know when to call us for help. 

Check Engine Light System

First off, what does the check engine light system actually do? Well, the on-board diagnostic (OBD) system operates the electronic control module (ECM), aka your car’s computer, which in turn monitors and controls the level of emissions allowable while the vehicle is operating. It continuously scans for any out-of-parameter operation, which is reported by a myriad of actuators and sensors including:

  • Fuel injectors
  • Air meter sensor
  • Camshaft and crankshaft sensors
  • Oxygen sensor
  • EGR solenoids
  • Evaporative emissions sensor
  • Engine coolant sensor
  • Canister purge solenoid
  • Idle speed motor
  • Fuel pump
  • Idle air solenoid

When the computer senses something amiss, it first tries to remedy the problem or waits for a few cycles. If the computer cannot correct the problem, it will set a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) in the memory and turn the check engine light on.

Most Common Check Engine Light Causes:

  • Engine mechanical problems
  • Loosened electrical connections
  • Loosened vacuum hoses
  • Shredded vacuum hoses
  • Broken wires

As you can see, the reasons for a check engine light can be numerous. Whether the indicator illuminates intermittently, continuously flashes, or stays illuminated is also another indicator of the severity of the issue at hand. Read on to determine if you need a tow with a check engine light on.


This indicates a problem that comes and goes. Called a soft failure, the problem is appearing only when specific conditions arise. An example of this is a loose wiring connection on a bumpy road. The best thing to do is get to your auto repair technician for diagnosis and most likely a relatively easy fix.

Continuous Illumination

When the check engine light stays on this is a sign of a hard failure. The mass air flow sensor is dirty or failing and will need cleaning or replacement to work correctly. This situation is probably not severe enough to call a tow truck, but if ever in doubt, do not hesitate. Saving your vehicle from severe damage is always better than letting the problem spiral out of control.

Continuous Flashing

This is a critical situation and continuing to drive may cause irreversible damage to the engine, exhaust system, or catalytic converter. This might happen due to a misfire, allowing fuel to pass into the exhaust manifold and catalytic converter. Here, high temperatures can ignite the fuel, not good. The sooner that you can stop driving and get your vehicle to a mechanic, the better. This is a good time to call for a tow truck, as the more you drive, the more you put your vehicle at risk for major failure.

Now that you’re more familiar with the check engine operating system, you’ll know when to request a tow with the check engine light on. Cue Parker Towing for fast, efficient towing services 24/7. We hope you’ll never need us, but we’re here if you do.

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