Understanding the ‘yellow light of death’

What does it really mean when your vehicle’s “check engine” lamp (also known as the dreaded “yellow light of death”) comes on? How bothered should you be? Why does it happen, and what will turn that annoying, disturbing light off?

When illuminated, the check engine icon on your instrument panel is a signal that something is wrong (or “reading” wrong) in your engine — whether because of a glitch or a temporary condition, or because a sensor detects something wrong.

The best thing to do is stay calm. DON’T PANIC. 

There’s a tendency to start freaking out and stop in the middle of the road. You turn off your engine, turn it on again, and it’s still there. If the check engine light comes on while you’re driving, it can be unnerving. You won’t find ready answers on the internet; ask 10 people and you might get a hundred different answers – if you’re lucky. If you start noticing some problems with your vehicle’s performance together with the check engine light appearing on your panel, that is a clear indication that you should get your vehicle checked right away.

In either case, the best thing to do is find out for sure. Go to your nearest casa or trusted auto shop with a scanner that can be connected through your OBD (on-board diagnostic) port which is always located somewhere below your steering wheel near the gas pedal area. It’s a standard that all car manufacturers agree on.

What could be wrong

• Damaged hoses/wires

If you have leaking hoses and frayed/cracked wires especially those connected to the spark plugs, your spark plugs may be misfiring. 

• Mass airflow sensor

The mass airflow (MAF) sensor calculates the amount of air entering the engine so that the computer can add the right amount of fuel. A faulty MAF sensor could trigger the check engine light. It can also cause a car to experience impaired gas mileage and increased emissions. 

• Catalytic converter

The catalytic converter is an emission control device that “reduces toxic gases and pollutants in exhaust gas from an internal combustion engine into less-toxic pollutants” relatively safer for the environment, and decreases the amount of smoke your vehicle produces. If it is faulty, the car’s gas mileage will suffer, and your car may accelerate slowly.

• Spark plugs

Replace your spark plugs every 30,000 kilometers. This is a quick, easy, and inexpensive fix. If you get that check engine light along with slight jolts while accelerating, the spark plugs might be the problem.

So, while we advise you to not to overreact to the yellow light of death, don’t ignore it either. 

Most Popular

Woman driving without license arrested after assaulting MTPB enforcer

A 26-year-old female driver was arrested after assaulting, resisting, and disobeying a Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau (MTPB) officer in Malate, Manila...

LTO revamps driver’s license restriction codes

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) revamped the restriction codes on driver’s licenses, featuring a more detailed alphanumeric system that identifies new vehicle...

DLSU places 3rd in Shell Eco-marathon Virtual League’s Road to 2050

The De La Salle University (DLSU) Eco Car Team from the Philippines won in the Shell Eco-marathon (SEM) Virtual League, an annual...

SMC installs first batch of MRT-7 trainsets

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) installed over the weekend the first batch of trainsets for its Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-7 project.


AVID remains on course despite ‘Ghost Month’ slump

The Association of Vehicle Importers and Distributors, Inc. (AVID) cruised along its recovery trend with a 33%...

Volvo PH earns safety seal certification

Volvo Philippines (Volvo PH) has earned its safety seal certification from the Department of Labor and Employment...

A merger in mobility: Global auto components giant Aisin collaborates with Advics and Art

Almost half of all cars sold in the Philippines are Toyotas. You see Toyotas on the road...

Is your vehicle ready for heavy downpours?

The rainy days are here. For motorists, this only means paying more attention while driving since inclement...

Rise of electric vehicles opens up opportunities for PH to become a regional eMobility player

The rise in the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) has opened up new opportunities for the Philippines...

More Articles Like This