Linenoise, part of the OBDII government mandate addresses the Service Engine Soon light and its operation. From what I understand of this mandate, this is what it says:
A steady-on SES light means the PCM has detected a fault, but the car can be operated safely and should be serviced in a reasonable amount of time.
A flashing SES light means the PCM has detected a fault (usually misfire) which can result in permanent damage to the emissions system.
As far as I know, this applies to ALL OBDII vehicles. In contrast, transmission slipping codes usually don't show up as "flashing" SES light codes (even though this is a sign of a damaged or malfunctioning component), just steady-on, but the modern computers can take action and make the appropriate adjustments to either the engine power output or shift pattern of the transmission to prevent further damage. Basically, the EPA mandated rules for OBDII don't care about anything other than the emissions output of your vehicle so you will probably never see the check engine light flash unless you have a detected misfire, or a fault that can cause additional emissions to come out of the tailpipe.. In which case, you will want to get it fixed right away unless you like replacing catalytic converters.
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[This message has been edited by Darth Fiero (edited 12-11-2003).]