If the engine management light pops up on your dashboard, you will naturally be concerned, but what does this light actually mean, how serious is it, and what action should you take to solve the issue?

What is an engine management light?

An engine management light, sometimes referred to as the ‘check engine light is a dashboard warning light that shows up when there is an issue with your car’s engine, exhaust or emissions system. Although this light will not alert you to a specific problem, it stands as a general warning that there is something wrong with your car that you need to get assessed and resolved.

What does the engine management light mean?

The EML is defined by a universal symbol in the shape of an engine outline. The light will show an amber, red or flashing light, with each indicating a certain level of the issue. It’s important to understand what each of these versions means so the problem doesn’t get worse.

Amber warning

An orange or amber light is the least serious. If this light appears, it means that you should be able to keep driving as normal but should still take your car to be looked at by a garage as soon as you can.


Flashing light

A flashing orange light means that there is a problem that could impact how your vehicle drives or operates. Common effects might be a shaking car, or the engine could sound different to normal. If this light comes on, you need to take your car to be inspected immediately.

Red light

A red engine management light means that there is a very serious problem and you need to stop driving immediately. If you see this, you should stop at the nearest safe place and call your breakdown provider straight away.

What can cause the engine management light to appear?

Here are some of the most common problems that could cause your engine management light to illuminate:

  • Oxygen sensors/mass airflow sensor
  • Ignition
  • Blocked fuel pump
  • Loose fuel cap
  • Damaged catalytic converter

How to reset the engine management light

As advanced as they may be, modern cars can develop technical glitches, and it’s possible turning the engine on and off may be enough for the EML to disappear. However, this isn’t always the case, and even if the EML disappears, it could reappear as you continue to drive. If the cause of the issue was simple, for example, a loose fuel cap, then tightening this and restarting the car may resolve issues. If the light doesn’t go out after you’ve fixed the issue you will need to have it reset and it’s always best to get in touch with a garage to do this or diagnose the issue in the first place.

Does an engine management light fail an MOT?

An amber or red light that stays on when the engine has been started is classed as a major fault, leading to a failed MOT.

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