Check engine light: Implications and Solutions

Check engine light, also known as check engine indicator is the light that appears on the instrument cluster (car dashboard) or telematic display of your automobile, which indicates that there is a fault with the engine of your car.  Just as the name implies, the check engine light sends a simple instruction that says ‘examine your car, there’s a fault somewhere in the engine system’.

Why is my Check engine light on?

When a fault is identified in the engine system, it passes the information to the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) also known as Brain Box. The ECU transmits the information to the instrument cluster/ dashboard causing the light on the engine logo to come on, signifying a fault.

When your check engine light is on and you are out of options, your next option should be taking your car to a dealer for an On-board diagnosis (OBD2 on the control panel).

Check engine light

There are multiple reasons why your check engine light comes on and not all these reasons are engine related. In the same way, when the check engine light is on, it doesn’t always indicate an alarming fault. With the aid of a diagnosis, however, you can determine the actual reason why your check engine light is on. Some reasons include:

Engine Misfiring

When there is a misfiring of the engine, the check engine indicator comes on, but this varies with cars. The check engine light of a Ford Ranger, for example, will not come on when its engine misfires because it was not designed that way. In Ford Ranger, we use a diagnostic tool to identify its fault. Learn more about why you should avoid engine misfiring.

Intake issues

There are components that work together to ensure sufficient intake of air into the automobile. Whenever there is a problem with an intake device, the check engine indicator comes on.

Oxygen sensor/Catalyst error in bank 1 or bank 2

Oxygen sensors monitor the amount of oxygen in the emission system of automobiles and pass this information to the ECU. When this sensor is bad or faulty, the check engine light comes on. Click here to learn more about oxygen sensors.

Impurities in the surface of the Maslow

Mass airflow (MAF) is a sensor that monitors the amount of air that goes into the internal combustion engine. When impurities get into the MAF, it can affect the functionality of the car, thereby causing the check engine light to come on as well

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Is it Safe to Drive with my Check Engine Light On?

Because the check engine indicator varies with the problem it communicates, this question cannot be given a direct answer. Carry out a scan, therefore, to ascertain the reason why the light is on. If it is a minor issue then you can keep driving and fix it at your convenient time.

On the other hand, if it is a major issue, then you should leave it with the dealer to be fixed, as it can break down on a journey.You can drive if it has these problems:

  • Intake issues
  • Catalysts (shuts down on few occasions)
  • Oxygen sensor
  • Short of intake in the air unit or subcircuit in the plug light

This however doesn’t mean you should delay its repair. The earlier you fix the fault, the better. Always check to find out.

What should I do if my check engine Indicator comes on while driving?

  • Do not be alarmed. Rather, remain calm
  • Drive to the nearest dealer and run a scan to find out the cause of the problem.
  • If it indicates danger, wait till it is fixed.
  • If it doesn’t indicate danger, you can continue your journey but make sure you fix it as soon as you can so that the problem doesn’t escalate.

Can I Reset my Check Engine Light after a Fault is Fixed?

Resetting a check engine light depends on the nature of the problem solved. In some cases, it resets itself while in other cases, it doesn’t. . This is why it is important to have a scanning tool. With a scanning tool, it becomes easier because this way you can know the exact nature of the problem. You can tell if it is an intermittent or a permanent fault.

Intermittent fault

The intermittent fault is a temporal fault the computer detects. It could be the absorbance of an impurity that later leaves the system. However, when the fault is fixed, the computer may still have information about the fault and this keeps the check engine indicator on.

In this case, all you need to do is switch off the car, start it off again and the light resets itself. You can now go ahead to erase the information from the computer using a diagnostic tool.

Permanent fault

A permanent fault is a fault that requires the replacement of a component or part with a new one. When a check engine-related fault is a permanent one, the light could still stay on after the current issue is fixed.

How can I Reset my Check Engine light?

Generally, to reset the check engine light, remove the battery head and plug it back in. If the light comes on again, go and diagnose the car for possible problems and reset using a diagnostic tool.

Step by Step Guide to Resetting the engine light using the Unplug Battery Method.

 The Unplug Battery Method
  • Switch off your ignition
  • Open your car bonnet
  • Remove any of the battery terminals (positive or negative) for at least five minutes. This will erase all the information in the ECU.
  • Put it back in.
  • Now you can switch on your car again and observe.

If the light comes on, then the problem is a permanent one or it needs a diagnosis for proper reset. If not, then the problem has been fixed.

Step by step guide using the Diagnostic tool Method

 Diagnostic tool connected to OBD socket

This is the best method. Here are the steps to follow when using a diagnostic tool:

  • Take your scanner ie onboard diagnostics tool
  • Trace where your OBD socket is located in your car
  • Bring out your OBD scanner
  • Slot it in
  • Your tool becomes powered
  • OBG would be displayed on the device then you click OK the scanning begins
  • Click on ECU
  • Click on the trouble code and the scanning begins
  • All the trouble codes surface. Trouble code means the fault on the engine.
  • If there are too many trouble codes, it means that the information saved after previous repairs carried out was probably not erased.
  • Erase them and observe. Any trouble code that remains on the screen is the current problem.

How does it make you feel to know that there are other ways to reset your check engine indicator without a scanner? Click here to find out!

How Do I know my Check Engine Light has been reset?

The only way you can be assured that your check engine light has been properly reset is by ensuring that the root cause identified is fixed. Run a diagnosis, and with the code displayed, you can identify the exact fault and fix it.Note: you cannot reset the light without removing the battery unless you use a diagnosis tool.

How do I know what the code says?

Each of the codes signifies a problem or relative problem. It helps the car owner narrow his or her suspicion down to very few options. To help with understanding a particular code, you can check the code out on the internet.

This way you can find out the particular unit that needs to be fixed. Click here to see various codes and the problems they signify. Have them at your fingertips!

Key Takeaways!

  • The check engine light signifies that there is a fault with your engine system
  • You can drive with your check engine light on depending on the fault instigating the light.
  • Always run a diagnosis to ascertain the nature of the fault detected
  • Intermittent faults are temporal problems
  • Permanent faults indicate a complete replacement of a damaged component
  • Error codes help you identify the exact fault in your engine system.
  • Drive safe, stay safe!

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