For some people, there is nothing more relaxing than driving down the highway on a warm spring day, that is, until the dread check engine light turns on. We have all been there, and it may quickly ruin your mood as the peace and tranquility of the open road are replaced with thoughts of what is wrong with your Camry and how much it will cost to fix it. Here, we will explain what the yellow engine-shaped light is and some common reasons why it may suddenly turn on even when your Toyota Camry seems to be operating normally.
Check Engine Light 101
The CEL is part of the On-Board Diagnostics II (OBDII) system, which has been used in all vehicles sold in the US since 1996. In short, it monitors data from various sensors and components, and a fault will be recorded in the vehicle’s Engine Control Module (ECM) if they are not functioning properly or within certain parameters. Depending on the severity or frequency of the issue, the CEL may illuminate, letting the driver know something is amiss with their Camry. While it does not indicate the cause, a scan tool can be connected to the OBDII port (usually located below the dash) to read the trouble code(s). This information gives a mechanic a good starting point for diagnosing the problem.
Can I Drive My Toyota Camry If the CEL Is On?
In most cases, you can still drive your Camry if the CEL is illuminated, although you may notice it is sluggish and less responsive. This is not unusual, as the vehicle’s ECM may activate a “safe mode” and reduce power to prevent damage from occurring. Other times, the light may turn on intermittently – commonly due to a component that is beginning to fail. However, in both cases, your Camry should be inspected by a mechanic to determine what is triggering the CEL.
On the other hand, a flashing CEL points to more serious problems, such as an ignition misfire or if the transmission is not shifting properly. If this is the case, it should be checked ASAP, as ignoring the problem can lead to costly repairs later.
What Commonly Triggers the CEL?
Many things will activate the CEL on your Toyota Camry. However, these are some of the most common causes:
- Fouled or bad spark plugs
- Worn or inoperative O2 sensors
- A loose or missing gas cap
- A problem with the air intake, fuel, or ignition system
- Internal transmission issues
- Faulty emissions control components
The Importance of Vehicle Maintenance
You might be relieved knowing the CEL doesn’t always mean your Toyota Camry needs expensive repairs. The opposite is often true, and it may be as simple as not tightening the gas cap or leaving it at the service station when filling up. Other common causes are not keeping up with routine maintenance. Things like a dirty air filter or fouled spark plugs allow unburnt fuel to enter the exhaust, damaging the O2 sensors and catalytic converters and reducing their life. The same can be said for regularly changing your Camry’s fluids. It reduces wear and prolongs the life of your cooling system, engine, and transmission. Now you may breathe a sigh of relief knowing the CEL is usually reminding you to keep up routine maintenance.