Warning, or "Check Engine," lights in vehicles usually turn on for a reason. On rare occasions, however, a warning light will come on as a result of a fuse or something equally simple and cheap to fix. The warning light signifies a problem somewhere in the vehicle and indicates the need to run diagnostics. In most vehicles, you must plug a small computer into the car, usually below the steering wheel on the driver's side, which provides codes for any detected problems. After addressing the codes, you must reset the warning light.
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Things you need
- Universal "Check Engine" light code reader/scanner/diagnostic computer
- Owner's manual for the vehicle
Purchase a car code scanner, or visit a local auto parts dealer; large chains will often have a car code scanner they use to check codes for customers. Car code scanners run approximately £32 and up as of 2010 and are available through websites or large auto parts stores. If you have a relatively new vehicle, you don't need to invest in a scanner; simply visit a local shop and ask the clerk to check the error code causing the warning light on the vehicle.
Consult the vehicle's owner's manual to locate the port where the code scanner plugs in. This port is usually on the driver's side, below steering-wheel level. Plug the scanner into the port, and follow the on-screen prompts, if any. Some scanners automatically detect the error code and provide it. Auto parts store clerks can record the code and look it up in their database or a book of error codes to find out the problem. Costlier scanners will present the error code and the problem, saving the extra step of looking up the code.
Reset the engine or warning light by pressing the "erase" button on the code reader.
Tips and warnings
- Service the vehicle promptly, especially if the warning code provided involves major parts such as the transmission. In many cases, the light is on for a reason and even if reset, it will turn back on eventually if you do not service the vehicle to repair the problem.
- Prepare for a charge to reset the warning light if you bring the vehicle to a mechanic or service station, as these locations typically charge for diagnostics (simply assessing the problem codes with the diagnostic computer). To avoid this fee, try an auto parts store first.
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