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Don't ignore check-engine light, even if your car is running fine

Tara Baukus MelloDear Driving for Dollars,
Every once in a while, my check-engine light comes on, but the car always seems to be running fine and after a bit, the light goes off. Is this something I really need to worry about, or can I just mention it to my mechanic the next time I take the car in for an oil change?
-- Mr. Swanson

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Check engine light | iStock.com

Dear Mr. Swanson,
It's probably not a serious issue yet. Just the same, I would make an appointment with your trusted mechanic and ask him or her to run diagnostic tests on the car's onboard computer. It may have stored a code (or codes) providing information on the problem, even if the light isn't currently on.

According to a study by CarMD, ignoring this warning sign can result in what should be a simple fix becoming an expensive repair. A check-engine light can indicate many different things that can cost less than a dollar to fix but can reach hundreds or thousands of dollars if they're ignored.

While your check-engine light could be indicating something as simple as a loose gas cap, it also could be an indicator of a failing computer sensor, spark plugs, ignition coils or other problems, so head to your mechanic and get a diagnosis.

FREE CREDIT SCORE: If you're ready to take a break from car repairs with a new car, check your credit score first at myBankrate.

To see what you might be in for, read Top 10 check-engine-light car repairs.

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If you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.

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