If there is a check engine light on then your first step should be to find out what the code is that's causing the light to come on. The vast majority of the time that code will narrow down the list of possibilities to just a handfull.
Trying to address a problem based on customer description alone can not only take a long time but many problems behave in the same manor but have totally different parts to blame.
Your vehicle description is listed as a 93 outlander. I don't remember the outlander being that old but if that information is correct then you'll have to either go to the dealership OR find a repair shop that can hook up to your car being how old it is. If your vehicle is listed incorrectly and is 96 or newer then you can go to many repair shops for detailed diagnostic work but also go to a parts store and have them retrieve the fault codes. If it's a 96 and newer vehicle the fault code will start with the letter P and have four numbers after it, ie: P0401 would indicate a misfire on cylinder 1.
Let me know if that helps or if you need more information.
This is actually my husband's car and he is at work so I am attempting to assist him with this issue. You are correct, the car is actually a 96. How unsafe is it for him to drive the car home/next couple of days with an engine light illuminated? He said it felt as though it was having difficulty going through the gears.
Typically, if the check engine light comes on and stays on after a problem is detected then you can drive it for a short period of time until you're able to schedule an appointment with your repair shop.
Edit: When there are serious problems with the engine then the check engine light will flash. You'll see this commonly when the engine misfires or if the timing belt has jumped time. Engine damage/emissions standards seriously comprimised sort of situations cause the light to flash.
However, transmission problems can also cause the check engine light to come on. These problems rarely cause the check engine light to flash though. If your transmission is the cause of the light, difficulty in changing gears and jerking then I would not recomend driving it very far at all. If he only works a few miles away then I would suggest driving it home or to the shop and waiting to find out why the light is on before taking the risk of driving further.
If there's a parts store on the way home then you could have them at least retrieve the fault codes and report back what those codes are and we could determine how important it is that the problem be fixed.
I've had brand new engines in brand new cars seize at 13 miles, power steering pumps fail in six miles on a brand new car. ANYTHING can happen. Most transmissions start showing problems after about three years and the make and model can play a large factor in how severe and how frequent you'll see a problem.
I kind of thought that the outlander was a bit newer but it really didn't make much difference at this point because we don't know what specific fault code is happening and it's still early to try to get real involved in a diagnosis.
If it were mine then I'd try and drive it home. If you have a car yourself then I'd make sure you're ready to go get him if the need arises whether it be from the side of the road or if he can limp it to the repair shop of your choice. Just remember if the light is flashing, if the transmission is grinding/slipping/popping in and out of gears, or if it knocks off repeatedly then go ahead and have it towed. You may even want to have him drive around work a bit to see how it does. If it handles that fine then take the longer drive home.
Ultimately, it comes down to finding out what the light is and then you can make a better informed decision about driving it.
Doug, thanks for your advise. It was helpful. Any thoughts on how to find a reputable repair person locally?
Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers. If they can't tell you where to take it then they can tell you where NOT to take it.
The Mitsubishi Outlander isn't a popular car among car enthusiasts but you may want to search the internet for Outlander forums and see if there are local members who can point you to a good place.
I strongly suggest you find a shop not only willing to work on asian vehicles but also one that has several technicians who have strong backgrounds in drivetrain and electronics. Those are the sort of guys you want working on it both for this problem but also any that may come up in the future.
You're welcome. Good luck with the fix and let me know if there's anything else I can do.