‘Can I drive with my check engine light on?’

The Car Doc weighs in.

2010 Toyota Camry.
2010 Toyota Camry. –Toyota

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Q. I recently took a road trip in my 2010 Toyota Camry hybrid some 75 miles from home. In the morning, the car’s “check engine” light came on. It drove OK, so I headed home. Upon my arrival, my husband said I should have had the car towed, since driving it could have caused some damage. What do you think?

A. The “check engine” light can come on for any number of reasons, from a loose gas cap to a malfunctioning component or sensor. As a general rule, unless the check engine light is flashing, you can still drive the car. A flashing “check engine” light indicates an engine misfire, which can cause irreversible damage to the car’s catalytic convertor. Since the light was on steady and not flashing, I think it was fine for you to drive the car. The issue shouldn’t be ignored, though, so you should get the car into a repair shop for proper diagnosis and repair.


John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. He answers readers’ questions each Saturday. You can tune in to his radio program Saturday morning from 8:30-10 a.m. on 950AM WROL or www.wrolradio.com. Email your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook mrjohnfpaul.