Posted by & filed under Diagnostics, Engine.


If you are like most drivers, you may have experienced the frightening moment when you’re confronted with a blinking engine light. Many people realize that “blinking” means “emergency” and get their cars into the shop right away. Others may take awhile to get the light investigated, whether it’s because they do not have the time to take their car in or do not think they can afford a costly repair. This post is going to tell you why it is never a good idea to drive your car while the service light is blinking.

Blinking Service Light
Photo Credit: CJ Isherwood via Compfight cc

When the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light starts blinking (as opposed to staying steadily illuminated), this means that a catalytic converter-damaging condition is occurring. Usually you will be able to feel a noticeable difference in the way your vehicle is running. When this Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light flashes, you should pull over safely and shut the vehicle off as soon as possible. Have the vehicle towed to your trusted repair facility for a diagnosis and repair. Continuing to drive this vehicle in this condition will do more damage and will cost more to repair. Depending on the type and age of vehicle you drive, there can be a huge variance on the replacement cost of a catalytic converter. Some converters may cost over $2000 per converter, and many cars use 2, 3, or even 4 converters.

The other thing to consider is that a lot of the vehicles we drive in the Puget Sound are built to meet California Emissions Standards. That means if the catalytic converter in your vehicle fails, it needs to be replaced with a catalytic converter that meets California Emissions Standards, and these cost even more than a vehicle that conforms to Federal Emission Standards. California Emission Standards are much more strict than federal, and if you don’t replace the faulty part with the correct part, it will not work with the emissions calibration on your vehicle’s computer. This could still signal a catalytic converter efficiency code, which will illuminate your Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light, and you will not pass the emission test. When your light is illuminated, or if there are current codes stored in the computer of your vehicle, it will not pass DEQ. There are pros and cons to your vehicle being built to California Emissions Standards. The upside is that your vehicle runs much cleaner for our environment, since California holds higher standards. The downside is that the vehicles are more expensive to repair.

The service light is there for a reason: to alert you when there is an issue with your vehicle so that you can take it in for service. There are many reasons why the service engine light may blink on. These reasons can range from quick and inexpensive fixes to extensive and costly repairs. Some of the most common culprits behind a blinking engine light are as follows:

  • Ignition coil has failed
  • Fuel injector has failed
  • Engine computer has failed
  • Spark plug
  • Spark plug wire
  • Bad engine valves

If your check engine light is on and not flashing, this means you need to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have the vehicle diagnosed. A diagnostic procedure on most vehicles typically takes 1-2 hours, and should cost $80 – $100 dollars in most cases. Driving a car with a blinking engine light will cost you the amount of the repair, plus the cost of a new catalytic converter. A Mini Cooper converter will range from $700 to $1500, while an Audi converter can range from $700 to $2400. A tow bill is usually under $100, and at Central Ave Auto, we offer free towing service to our shop in our designated area.

Whatever the cause of your blinking service light, rest assured that our experienced technicians are trained to handle it in a professional and timely manner. Give us a call at (253) 854-6762 or schedule an appointment using our convenient online appointment booking service. You can also come into our repair shop, located at 1514 Central Ave in Kent, for a diagnostic.