Put your car in gear only to notice with horror that your service engine soon light came on? Not sure what it means or what to do now?
When your car throws a service engine soon light it’s trying to communicate a problem to you. Sometimes this problem can be as insignificant as a loose gas gap (very common reason for service engine soon light) or something far more serious like damage to internal engine components. The most important thing is not to panic! Luckily for you most modern cars (post 1996) come equipped with an on board computer called an ECM.
The ECM acts like your cars brain leveraging an array of sensors to detect problems. Your car’s ECM typically detects a problem, triggers a “trouble code”, and causes the light to illuminate. Often times this will allow you to diagnose and repair issues well before serious damage occurs.
The first step toward solving your problem is retrieving the code your car is trying communicate to you with that service engine soon light. This can be done by plugging into the car’s diagnostic port and finding the error code. In order to achieve this you can use a relatively inexpensive device called an OBD-II scanner. You can purchase a code scanner online or at just about any car parts store. Alternatively you can head to your local Autozone or O’Reilly auto parts and they will plug in a scanner and read the code for free. From there you can look the codes up and determine the best course of action. Hopefully your code will say loose gas cap and you can reset that light and continue down the road stress free!