That dreaded little yellow or orange light on the dash just came on and now you’re freaking out. What could possibly be wrong with your car? Will it be an expensive repair and will I have the money to fix it? Well, it might not be a huge problem, and there are ways that you can get that light to go away on your own. It could be something as simple as a loose gas cap! Keep reading if you’re wondering how to turn off a check engine light.
How To Reset A “Check Engine” Light
Your car’s computer system is complicated, but extremely smart. If anything goes wrong, it uses a CEL as a way to alert you that there are problems. In some cases, that light might remain illuminated even after the problem has gone away or been corrected. You might need to manually reset the light so that it disappears from your dashboard. Thankfully, there are several different ways that you can do this, and some of them do not even require any special tools. Here are the 5 easy methods that you need to know for resetting a check engine light.
1. Use An OBD2 Scanner
This is by far the best method for resetting that pesky light for a number of reasons. Your car’s computer, or OnBoard Diagnostic (OBD) system, is what triggers the light to come on in the first place. Modern cars have an advanced system called OBDII that monitors all the sensors and data produced from those sensors throughout your vehicle. This system controls everything from your car’s fuel injection system to the airbags in your vehicle.
An OBD2 Scanner tool is what an auto repair shop uses to read the trouble codes stored in the vehicle’s computer system. These error codes help the mechanic determine what went wrong in the car and what type of repair is likely needed. In addition to reading the codes from the computer, this scanner tool also allows the mechanic to push information to your vehicle’s computer. Once the code has been read, then the tool is used to clear the code from the computer, and thus clear the check engine light. Resetting the light in this manner ensures that the trouble code is really cleared from the computer.
We know that not everyone has a scan tool laying around. These tools are expensive and also require a bit of know how to use properly. However, most auto parts stores or repair shops will scan your codes and reset your light for you at no charge. The tool simply plugs into a connector under your dash, and the light can be reset in just a minute or two. You can even purchase bluetooth scan tools that will send that data to your cell phone easily.
2. Disconnect Your Car’s Battery
If you’re in a bind and need the light reset quickly, then disconnecting the battery might be the best way to go. If all power is removed from the car’s computer, then any codes stored there will go away because the flash memory requires a small amount of power to function. Pop your hood, disconnect the negative terminal of your car battery (that’s the one with the black cap or ‘-‘ sign), and then wait a few minutes. There are capacitors and other items inside your computer that will store power for several minutes even after the battery is disconnected. Make sure that you do this when the car is not running! You could damage other components or end up needing a serpentine belt replacement.
You can turn on the lights or blow the horn to help use all the stored power within the system. Once the power has been drained, go ahead and reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery terminal. When you turn the car on, the warning light should be gone. If you just get a clicking sound when you turn the key, you probably didn’t reconnect the cable tightly enough. This is a pretty easy DIY way to help get rid of that light, although you should know that it will come back on if the original problem is still present. Be sure that you always wear safety glasses when working with the battery in case of an accident.
3. Reinsert The ECU’s Fuse
Nearly every electrical component on your vehicle has a fuse associated with it. These fuses prevent an overload on the circuit, and they will blow if too much amperage goes through the circuit. Pulling the fuse also opens the circuit and prevents power from reaching that component. Another way to reset the check engine light is by resetting the ECU. If you pull power to the computer, it will lose its memory and forget that the light was on in the first place.
You’ll need to refer to your car’s owner’s manual to determine which fuse is associated with the ECU. Once you locate it, simply remove that fuse and wait about 30 seconds. This allows time for all the electrical charge to drain from the capacitors. This essentially resets the car’s computer. Reinsert the fuse and then start the vehicle. The light should be gone, and it may not return if it was due to a one-time issue.
4. Turning The Ignition On & Off
If you have a check engine light on, this can be an extremely easy way to get rid of it. It simply requires turning your car off and on three times. With the car parked in a safe place, turn it on for a second, and then back off for a second. Repeat this process three times and your light should go away if you don’t have any serious problems.
This is an easy way to try and clear the light yourself as it only takes a few seconds. Many times, this method will work and you won’t have to schedule service or visit your local dealership. If the light turns off, then you can keep driving and hope that it doesn’t come back on! If it doesn’t turn off, then your computer must still be throwing fault codes which can mean that you have an ongoing issue like a faulty throttle position sensor or something else that needs to be addressed.
5. Let It Turn Off On Its Own
This is the least preferred method because it can cause you to ignore major problems with your vehicle. However, this method can work at times. If your vehicle experienced a minor, one-time problem like an engine misfire or an improper reading from an oxygen sensor, then the light will eventually go off on its own as long as you don’t have an ongoing problem like a bad catalytic converter or other issue.
Using this method will obviously require you driving longer with the light illuminated, and it might cause you to fail an emissions test if you have one scheduled soon. If the light doesn’t go away after a few days of driving, then you should have your car inspected by a mechanic. You probably have a bigger issue that needs to be corrected.
What If The “Check Engine” Light Returns?
Unfortunately, there is really no way to disable the check engine light permanently. If the check engine light returns after being reset, then it’s probably time to head down to your local vehicle service center. Your car probably has an issue that needs to be corrected like a faulty part. Your local mechanic can advise you on what specific issue is present and how much it’s going to cost to fix it. You might get lucky and your problem is a loose gas cap! Or, you might hear bad news and learn that your engine has big problems and needs to be rebuilt.
If you’re looking at an expensive repair, you should consider selling your car to Auto Wranglers. We’ll give you an instant free quote to buy your car for cash in about 90 seconds. The whole process only takes a day or two, and we always pay top dollar for your vehicle – even if it’s an old clunker that you’re selling. Our service area includes the whole country, so we’ll come to your location and pick up the vehicle. We always provide free towing and pickup, so you always get to keep every bit of the sales price. This is a great alternative if you’re looking at expensive repairs, and you can use the money you make to buy yourself a new car.
Nobody likes seeing that check engine light illuminated on their dash. However, there are some things you can do to get rid of it on your own. If you’re unable to get it to go away, then your car probably has some serious issues that need correcting. In that case, you might be better off to sell your car to Auto Wranglers instead of spending money on expensive repairs. We’ll make you a cash offer and pay you top dollar for your car – even if it won’t start. Give us a call today to get started.
Will the “check engine” light reset itself?
In many cases, yes, the light will eventually reset itself. However, if there is a persistent problem present, then the light will remain on until the issue is corrected. If the light does not turn off after about 3 days worth of driving, then it’s probably not going to reset itself. You’ll need to perform a reset using one of the other methods mentioned above to get the light to go away.
What is the best way to reset the “check engine” light?
The best way to reset the check engine light is by using a scan tool. This tool communicates directly with your car’s computer, reads the error codes that are present, and then clears those codes from the computer’s memory. This is the method used by mechanics and repair shops, and it is the best way to avoid having the light return again in the future.
Can you reset check engine light without disconnecting the battery?
Yes, there are several other ways to reset the light. You can use a scan tool or simply turn your car on and off a few times. Another option is removing and re-inserting the ECM fuse so that the computer gets reset. Finally, simply drive your car for a while and the light might reset itself. All these methods are ways that you can reset that pesky light without disconnecting the battery.
How long does it take for the “check engine” light to reset?
It depends on the method that you use to reset it. Some methods are instant, such as the scan tool or ECM fuse removal. However, other methods take a little longer like driving the car until the light resets itself. It could take anywhere from a few seconds with an OBDII scanner to a couple of days of driving for the light to reset.