Service Engine Soon Light – Meaning, Causes (How to Fix it)

When your "Service Engine Soon" light comes on, what does it mean? How can you fix it? We have the answers here! Read on!

Service Engine Soon Light

You are driving on the road, and suddenly out of nowhere, the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light appears on your dashboard.

What to do now? Will my engine get damaged if I continue driving? Should I stop the car immediately and tow it to the garage? How much will it cost to get it repaired?

These are just a few of the potential questions that may pop up inside your head.

But do not worry, the service engine soon light is not as dangerous as it seems. In this article, you will learn everything you have to know about the service engine soon warning light.

What does the Service Engine Soon Light Mean?

The Service engine soon light indicates there is a minor problem with your car’s electronics or the engine. Some manufacturers use the service engine soon light instead of a check engine light when there is just a minor problem with your car.

It could also mean that it is time for a scheduled service, such as oil or spark plug replacement. Some manufacturers only have one indicator for both scheduled service and engine problems.

Common causes of the Service engine soon light:

There are some special situations when your service engine soon light is more likely to come on. This differs slightly between car manufacturers, but these causes are often very similar between car models. Here are the causes of a service engine soon light:

  • Minor engine issues like a loose fuel tank cap.
  • Time for a scheduled service.
  • Low level of any fluids (Low oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc.)
  • Minor exhaust emission issues

What to do when the Service Engine Soon light appears

Service Engine Soon

When you are on the road and your ‘Service Engine Soon’ light appears, you will most likely not have any diagnostic tools with you. You can check some common things by the side of the road when the light appears, though.

  • Check your repair manual (if you have it with you) for what the service engine light means on your car model.
  • Check all fluid levels, including the engine oil level, brake fluid level, wiper washer fluid, automatic transmission fluid (if you have a dipstick for it), and the coolant level.
  • Check to make sure your fuel tank cap is tightened properly.
  • Listen if you can hear any strange noises from the engine.
  • Check your service history manual when your last scheduled service was done and check if it’s time for a service. Call your authorized dealer if you have a digital service manual or try to find some information on your dashboard menu.

If you can’t find any problems, you have to take your car to a workshop to read your vehicle’s trouble code memory. You can also do this yourself if you have an OBD2 scanner at home. If you do not have one and want one, you can check out our OBD2 scanner review article. Check your engine control unit for any stored trouble codes.

If you receive any codes, save them and try to get information about what they mean. If there are codes for emission problems that are not dangerous for your engine, you can try deleting the code to see if the engine maintenance light goes out.

If the light goes out after you delete the codes, it means that one of the codes stored in the memory is causing the engine maintenance light to come on.

Service Engine Soon light in different colors

The service engine light can also occur in different colors, and you should be aware of them.

  1. Yellow light: Minor Issue: Drive to the workshop or diagnose it yourself as fast as possible.
  2. Red Light: Major Issue: Stop and turn off the engine as fast as possible and get it towed to the closest mechanic shop for an inspection.

I cleared the Service Engine Soon light, but it came back?

Diagnose Car

The engine control module performs all engine components tests at each engine ignition and after the vehicle has warmed up. If it has failed a test several times, it will determine something is not as it should be. Therefore, it can take a long time for the engine control module to detect these problems.

If the Service engine soon light appears again it means that the problem still occurs and you need to diagnose it again.

Electrical problems are often detected imminently and do not require start-up tests to notice it. If the service engine light appears again, you have to reread the trouble code memory and try to get more information and solve the problem.

Service Engine Soon FAQ

What causes the service engine soon light to come on?

There are a lot of causes of why the service engine soon light comes on. The most common cause is that your car has a minor engine issue, low fluid level, a faulty light bulb, or a minor emission issue depending on the car model.

Can I drive with service engine soon light on?

The problems causing the service engine soon light in most cases not dangerous for your car. However, it is good to check all fluids to ensure the level is OK before you continue to drive. We do recommend repairing it as soon as possible, though.

How do I get the service engine soon light to go off?

In most cases, you have to repair the problem that caused the service engine light, and it will disappear by itself. If the light shows up because of scheduled service, you need to reset it with a diagnostic scanner or a particular combination for your car model.

Can low oil cause a service engine soon light?

Yes, Low engine oil level can cause the service engine soon light to appear on your dashboard on a lot of car models. It can also mean that other low fluid levels are low or other problems with the car. It is relatively easy to check the oil level, though, so you should definitely begin with it.

Find more information in our list of all car dashboard symbols.


Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.