Engine management light: what is it and what to do when it comes on?

This will usually happen when you least expect it: you are driving on the road, no worries in the world, when suddenly an orange engine logo lights up on your dashboard. What is that? This is the engine management light, and it alerts you that there is a potential problem under the hood.

Here we explain your next steps to turn off that engine management light and potentially prevent costly damage to your car.

What is the engine management light?

The engine management light is one of the many warning lights set in the instrument cluster on your car’s dashboard. You are more likely to see it when you turn on the ignition because all the dashboard lights come on and go off quickly when you start your car. The light is connected to your car’s engine control unit (ECU) and is the first indicator of problems with the electronic “brain” of the engine. This controls things like the fuel and air mixture and ignition timing to help your car’s engine run smoothly.

If the engine management light stays on when you turn on the ignition, or if it comes on while you are driving, there could be a problem under the hood. Unfortunately, there is no easy DIY solution for this, and your next stop will be your local garage. If your car is still under warranty, then a trip to your nearest franchise dealership is on the cards.

Once there, technicians will be able to connect a laptop to your car’s on-board diagnostic (OBD) port and download the ECU codes created when a fault occurs. This is when you need to prepare, as different error codes indicate different issues, and they can range from trivial, such as a faulty sensor, to issues with things like the emission control valve that manages your car’s emissions.

How do I turn off the engine management light?

Once the problem with your car has been located and resolved and the vehicle is functioning properly again, the technician working on your car will reset the car’s ECU so that the engine management light goes out. Sometimes the system will need a second reset, while some major dealers will also take the opportunity to give your car a software update with the latest manufacturer data.

If the light does not turn off, or if it comes back on soon after the repair, it could mean that there are still issues with your car. If the dealer is satisfied that there is no problem with your vehicle, have them reset the engine management light. And if it does come back on, put pressure on your garage to know what is causing the light to come on, because it shouldn’t come on for no reason at all.

Now read our complete guide to main dealership car maintenance …


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Kevin A. Perras

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