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How to Easily Reset Your Check Engine Light

If you drive any vehicle long enough, eventually, that dreaded check engine light will come on at some point.

The bright orange glow illuminates your dashboard, and your mind begins to race through the possibilities of what could be wrong. Your stomach sinks at the idea of the thousands of dollars you’re potentially going to be spending soon.

Is it such a big deal that you need to panic?

Today, we’re looking at resetting your check engine light and how easy it is to do.

Let’s get started!

Keep in mind: We’re not recommending that you reset your check engine light. In fact, we advise that a professional mechanic check out the issue if a check engine light appears. At the very least, you should always reference your owners manual before working on your vehicle.

What Is a Check Engine Light? 

A check engine light is a visual indication on a vehicle’s dashboard that alerts the driver of a potential mechanical issue. There is a wide range of possibilities for why this light could come on while you’re driving.

It could be a minor issue like a loose gas cap or something critically wrong with the engine.

If your vehicle’s light comes on, it’s a good idea to get it to a trusted mechanic as soon as possible. Some car part stores like AutoZone can use computers to help diagnose the issue.

However, they’re likely going to offer minimal help with repairing it.

Taking your vehicle to a trustworthy and knowledgeable mechanic can help ensure you and your vehicle are back on the road in no time.

Can You Reset the Light Yourself?

Yes, you can typically reset a check engine light yourself. However, it’s essential to know that simply resetting the light does not fix the issue. If a problem caused the light to come on, it will likely still be an issue.

Resetting your check engine light can be done by inserting your car key into the ignition, turning it on for one to two seconds, and then turning it off. You can repeat this process three or four times, and the light should reset.

However, this doesn’t always work if there is a severe issue with your vehicle. If it doesn’t work for you, get your car to a mechanic to have it checked out.

Resetting the check engine light can also be done if you own a code scanner. These devices read the error codes and can allow you to reset the system that illuminates the warning light. 

Check engine light on in vehicle
Nobody likes to be greeted by the check engine light while on the go!

How Can I Clear My Check Engine Light Without a Scanner?

To clear your check engine light without a scanner, you’ll need to access your vehicle’s battery. You can disconnect the negative battery cable (black) from the battery.

Wait a few minutes before reconnecting the battery cable to the battery terminal. This will reset the diagnostic system in your vehicle and potentially immediately fix the check engine light.

Keep in mind, if your vehicle has an advanced computer system, this can cause more harm than good. Always consult with your owner’s manual.

This is typically done after addressing any issue that caused the light to come on in the first place. If the light goes off, then you’ve likely fixed it. However, if the light remains illuminated, there’s a good chance you’ll need to have a mechanic look over your car.

Pro Tip: A check engine light can sure be a downer on a road trip. We uncovered another 5 Ways to Ruin Your Road Trip.

Is There a Fuse for a Check Engine Light?

Your vehicle likely has an electronic control unit (ECU) that controls many of the sensitive electronics in your car. There’s a fuse in your car’s fuse box to protect this device. Pulling the ECU’s fuse will cut the power to the device.

This acts similarly to disconnecting the battery cable, but power loss is to the ECU instead of the entire car.

On modern cars, the ECU controls a complex set of electronics. Removing the fuse can cause issues or other errors to occur. It’s not advisable to remove the fuse to permanently make the light go out as it can cause more significant problems or cause the car not to run.

Woman lookin at engine in car.
For engine savvy travelers fixing your check engine light can be done without the help of a mechanic.

Does Disconnecting the Battery Clear Codes?

Yes, disconnecting the negative battery cable on your vehicle’s battery can clear the codes. You’ll need to disconnect the cable for 10 to 15 minutes to ensure it completely resets the system.

Once you reconnect the battery cable, the check engine light and any other error lights should turn off, assuming there is no longer an issue. However, if there is still a malfunction in the system, the light will likely immediately come back.

Again, we don’t recommend this method.

Pro Tip: We spoke to an RV mechanic, these are the RV systems he says will break first

Can I Drive With the Check Engine Light On? 

You can drive with the check engine light on, as long as you’re aware of why it is on in the first place. We always recommend talking to a mechanic or dealership service center before driving when the light comes on.

Some vehicles have issues that cause the light to stay on permanently. However, these are typically older vehicles.

If you’re driving a newer car and the light comes on, it’s a good idea to have it checked out immediately. Ignoring the light can typically result in more extensive and expensive damage. These types of issues usually don’t fix themselves.

Is Resetting a Check Engine Light Yourself a Good Idea?

If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s best to leave this type of job to a professional. Due to the complex nature of modern vehicles, your innocent intentions can cause a tremendous amount of damage to the electronics and computer systems.

If the check engine light comes on, have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible. Doing so can save you time, stress, and, more importantly, money.

Have you ever had a check engine light alert you to a major issue with your car?

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  1. james says:

    That is such a dumb idea to clear the fault codes without knowing what code was set, by doing this it can erase valuable information stored on the code used to diagnose the problem, also battery resetting can cause other problems by resetting stored values in other module. Not all ECM’s will clear codes with a battery reset. Just have a professional take a look at it.

  2. J Will says:

    Thank you