You are driving on the road, and out of nowhere, the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light appears on your dashboard.
What to do now? Will my engine be 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. Below, I will give you all the information that you need, and the meaning of the service engine soon light.
Service Engine Soon Light Meaning
If the ‘Service Engine Soon’ light comes on, it means that there is a minor problem with the electronics or the engine of your car. Some manufacturers use them as a check engine light for minor problems. 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:
- 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
When you are on the road and your ‘Service Engine Soon’ light appears, you will probably not have any diagnostic tools with you. But what you could do is to check the most common causes of a service engine soon light. There are some straightforward checks that you can do on the side of the road, which will, in many cases, solve the problem.
The service engine light can also occur in different colors and you should be aware of them.
- Yellow light = Minor Issue: Drive to the workshop or diagnose it yourself as fast as possible.
- 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.
Checklist for when the Service Engine Soon light appears:
- Check inside 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 that your fuel tank cap is tightened properly
- Listen if you can hear any strange noises from the engine.
- Check your service manual for 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 the trouble code memory from your vehicle. 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.
The most modern OBD2 code readers have an inbuilt trouble code library where you will find solutions and causes for the problem. If you do not have it, you can check our OBD2 code list or ask us a question on our homepage, and we will help you out.
What does the Check Engine Light mean?
Most manufacturers use one ‘check engine’ light and a separate ‘scheduled service’ light. The ‘check engine’ light comes on when the engine control unit or the transmission control unit has detected a fault in the engine or transmission system.
If your ‘check engine’ light is ON, the easiest way to diagnose this problem is to check your trouble code memory with an OBD2 scanner. The ‘check engine’ light will not light up if there is a scheduled service; it will only occur when there is a problem with your engine.
I reset the Service Engine Soon light, but it came back, how come?
The engine control module performs tests of all engine components at each engine ignition and after the vehicle has warmed up. If it has failed a test several times, it will determine that something is not as it should be. Therefore, it can take a long time for the engine control module to detect these problems.
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 solution to the problem. If you want help to solve your troubleshooting problem you can get free help from us on our homepage.
- Do not panic if the service engine light appears, it is most likely a minor issue.
- If the light occurs, check through our checklist to make sure you can still drive your vehicle before going to a workshop
- You can read the trouble code memory yourself at home if you are using an OBD2 scanner.
- If it is a red light, stop your vehicle and engine as fast as possible. If it is a yellow light, you can go through our checklist.
I hope you have learned something from this article. If you have any further questions, you can leave a comment down below or ask us a question on our homepage.
If you want to find out more about dashboard signs, you can check out the article Dashboard Warning Lights.
Hello I’m Magnus, the owner and the writer of this website. I have been working with cars since I was 16 and I’m specialized with in-depth Automotive diagnostics. Also been driving drifting for the last 6 years. I’m here to give you answers to all your automotive questions and I hope that you enjoy our content.