How To Turn Off Check Engine Light

The last several decades have delivered a vast array of automobiles available to purchase that come equipped with some of the most advanced technology only fantasized about previously. The options from surrounding airbags, climate-controlled seats to defrosting mirrors and self-parking are a fascinating phenomenon. The stunning fact that the technology built into the average cell phone is more powerful than the computers that landed a space shuttle on the moon makes the discussion around a check engine light seem almost obsolete. There remains the probability that you will experience the horror and stress of the dreaded amber glow of the “Check Engine” light illuminating in front of you on the dashboard at some point in your driving experience.

It is one of the most common incidents that drivers endure daily around the nation. The related anxiety with the check engine light is often associated with the costs to make it go away. Today, most vehicles on the road have a sophisticated internal computer system that monitors numerous vehicle performance items. This includes engine speed, air to fuel ratio to ignition timing. Problems occurring with the onboard diagnostic system is the catalyst that causes the dreaded “Check Engine” light to appear. There are several ways to turn the Check Engine light off, from clearing the code with a scanner, fixing the issue that triggered the light to turn on, or merely driving long enough to reset it. Understanding the reasons the light may come on, methods available to turn it off safely, and knowing how urgent a problem you may be facing can help alleviate the unknown fear and worry.

What The “Check Engine” Light Is Telling You

The “Check Engine” light is a warning that there may be a serious issue occurring with your vehicle. A solid amber color emitting from the dashboard symbol advises the driver to have the vehicle serviced as soon as possible. A flashing check engine light indicates a more urgent notice to the driver. It’s in your best interest to stop the vehicle immediately, turn off the engine, and tow it to your mechanic before any further damage occurs. The warning light can illuminate for numerous reasons, including overheating, misfiring, shaking, and even experiencing a sudden power loss. The light will often come on with no distinguishable performance changes, resulting in a need for diagnostic analysis to find a resolution.

Determining the cause of the problem requires a code scanner’s aid, which can be hooked up to the vehicle and display a code that correlates with the necessary repair. An OBD-ll Code Scanner (OnBoard Diagnostics) is available for anyone to purchase, many of which can be found at your local automotive supply store. There are several brands and types of scanners available, including plugins and Bluetooth options. Scanner prices start at around $20, with some even running you north of $100 or more (for more advanced features). However, it should be noted that there are reliability issues related to “do it yourself” scanners, so if you are not a professional mechanic, you should consider taking your vehicle to a certified professional for analysis. If your car is perhaps experiencing a severe engine problem, taking a mechanical issue into your own hands may be a road you rather not go down.

A professional mechanic will need to run a diagnostic check on what is triggering the light to illuminate. The cost of having this diagnostic check done can range from $100 to $250. The price will include the details of the issue that need to be repaired in order to resolve the problem. The professional running the diagnostic also can simply clear your vehicle’s computer, thus turning the “Check Engine” light off. However, the recommendation remains to repair the warning light’s cause, ensuring its safety before turning off the light.

The warning light can include over 200 unique codes. About 20 of them are the most common issues with your vehicle’s “check engine” system. Repairs can sometimes be simple, starting as low as $17 to replace a gas cap. But they can also be more costly, running $1200 or more for issues with a catalytic converter, for instance.

Top 20 Reasons The “Check Engine” Light Comes On

  • Faulty Oxygen Sensor
  • Faulty Catalytic Converter
  • Faulty Ignition Coil(s) 
  • Inspect for a Loose Fuel Cap
  • Replace Mass Air Flow Sensor
  • Replace Evaporative Emissions Plug Control Valve
  • Faulty Thermostat
  • Replace Fuel Injectors
  • Replace Exhaust Gas Recirculation Valve and Clean EGR Parts
  • Faulty Evaporative Emissions Canister Vent Solenoid
  • Replace Fuel Tank Pressure Sensor
  • Replace Throttle Body Assembly
  • Clean Fuel Injectors
  • Replace Emissions System Integrity Monitor
  • Replace Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor
  • Replace Evaporative Emissions Vent Control Valve
  • Replace Intake Manifold Gasket(s)
  • Replace Crankshaft Position Sensor
  • Replace Spark Plug(s)
  • Replace Faulty Fuel Cap

The Most Common Causes For The Check Engine Light

Perhaps reading through this laundry list of common causes has brought on some unneeded anxiety. Rest assured that in many cases, the check engine light can be a non-catastrophic and straightforward issue—the most common cause triggering the solid dashboard light is a faulty or loose gas cap. The gas cap is the simplest and least expensive repair needed and is the first thing you can easily do yourself before taking it to a mechanic. Take the gas cap off and visually inspect it. If the rubber that allows the cap to seal properly is in good condition, return it to its correct location and tighten it. Driving at least 50 miles after tightening the cap will reset the light. The second thing is to replace the gas cap entirely and drive the vehicle again at least 50 miles. If the Check Engine light remains on, you will need a professional to complete the diagnostic scan. 

Simple Check Engine Light Checklist

Solid Check Engine Light:

  • Check/Replace gas cap for tightness and seal
  • Drive at least 50 miles to reset code/light off
  • The light still on/ Take to a professional mechanic

Flashing Check Engine Light

  • Pull car over
  • Shut off car
  • Tow car to a professional mechanic immediately

In Closing

Learning what the "Check Engine" light is and the illumination reasons can reduce the worry associated with it. The critical point to remember is that it is essential not to ignore the light and resolve the issue as soon as possible while simple or more complicated. Prompt attention and action may allow you to hang on to thousands of dollars in potentially larger problems by simply facing that nasty light head-on.