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How To Reset The Check Engine Light

A common question is "How do I reset or turn off the check engine light?". You have a few options of "reseting the light". Technically what you have to do is clear the trouble codes stored in the car's computer.

Your car's onboard diagnostic system triggers the Check Engine Light when it detects a malfunction with the vehicle. On 1996-newer vehicles when something is wrong, an OBD-II trouble code is stored and the MIL (malfunction indicator lamp) is lit up to notify the driver of a problem. The MIL is commonly refered to as the Check Engine Light.

NOTE: The Check Engine Light (CEL) or Service Engine Soon (SES) light lights steadily to indicate there is a problem with the vehicle. Please read the codes first, and fix the problem prior to reseting the CEL/SES light (i.e. clear the codes).

The preferred method of clearing the codes from the car's memory and turning off the light is to use a scan tool and clear the codes. It is a simple procedure and will not cause any side effects. AutoZone reads trouble codes for free, they may also clear them for you, just ask. Other local auto parts stores may offer the same service, so call around. If you have an interest in diagnostics you may want to consider buying your own code reader, they can be had for as little as $40 for a simple one.

As well, if the problem is fixed the light should go out on it's own after a number of successful starts. The number of starts varies depending on the trouble code and vehicle make/model.

As an alternative, you could try disconnecting the car's main battery for about 15-30 minutes, and reconnect it. Please note that this method is NOT recommended and may result in radio presets being lost and other unknown affects. This method also results in the OBD-II monitors being reset.

Tip: Be sure the repair is complete otherwise the check engine light may trigger again right away