21st Apr 2004, 15:59
Let's think about what the first commenter said. "You can ignore about any other light besides the airbag"? That is COMPLETELY wrong. Let me name off a few lights that are 100 times more important to DO something about. Oil light. If this comes on it means oil pressure was lost, you WILL seize up the engine in a matter of 2 minutes or less. If you see the oil light on with the engine running, STOP IMMEDIATELY. OK how about the temperature light? It means the coolant has overheated (usually by the time this light comes on, damage to the engine is imminent) if you don't stop the car and shut off the engine IMMEDIATELY after seeing this light, you can guarantee a blown head gasket among other things. How about the brake light? It means 1/2 the brake system is not working, it usually means there is a leak. Leave it and you have NO brakes when the master cylinder runs out of fluid.
Now, about the airbag, ABS and check engine light. Those ones CAN go for awhile without damage. In fact, you can drive a million miles with the airbag or ABS light on. When on of those lights are on, the computer has disabled the airbag or the ABS, so in a crash you get NO airbags (and it is IMPOSSIBLE for the airbag to deploy whether this light is on or off, airbags are over engineered to such an extent that such an occurrence is impossible)
The ABS is disabled with the ABS light on, you still have 100% fully functional regular brakes (unless the brake light is on too, an unrelated problem) the system is however shut off and you get no ABS braking on ice, snow, rain etc.
With the check engine light, it usually means something is going on in the engine (misfire, lean mixture, rich mixture etc) which will not cause immediate damage, but could after awhile (so you could go a week without doing something about this light, but I wouldn't go longer.)