How To Reset The Check Engine Light
If you’ve gotten to this page obviously your check engine light must be on, and there are several scenarios you may be in.
- If it’s illuminated solid, then there is a code in the system. This could be something easy to fix or something that requires some diagnostics. Check out our Blog for help with deciphering and diagnosing these codes.
- You may have just fixed a concern with the vehicle, but the check engine light is still illuminated.
- Lastly, if it is blinking, there is an active misfire, and the car should not be driven until the reason it is misfiring is resolved. Reference our blogs for P0300 through P0308. There is no need to clear this type of check engine light without repairing the vehicle.
There are three basic ways to go about clearing/resetting your check engine light. We’ll break them all down and show you how to do each one step by step.
Option 1: Use a Scan Tool or Code Reader
This option is the most efficient and thorough. A scan tool will not only clear the Check Engine Light, but it will allow you to see why the check engine light is on in the first place. Check Engine Lights don’t come on for no reason. There is a reason behind why it is on, and if you don’t resolve the problem, the light will come right back on. If you’re looking for an affordable, easy to use a scanner, check out our FIXD Sensor.
Enter the vehicle through the driver’s door and locate your OBD port. It should look like the picture below, and it is usually around where your shins would be if you were sitting in the driver’s seat.
Plug your Scan Tool into the OBD port and turn the key to the on position (gauges should be lit up, a/c will blow if it’s on, but the engine is off)
This step will vary based on the tool you’re using, but select “READ” and scroll through the codes that are active on your vehicle. Write down each code in case the codes come back or change later down the road.
Now select “CLEAR” and clear the codes. At this point, the Check Engine Light should be off, and you have successfully cleared your Check Engine Light. If the light comes back on, you will need to diagnose and repair the concern that is causing the code.
Local auto parts stores will often times offer a free service to read the codes, and some will even clear them for you. Although, not all locations will clear the Check Engine Light due to liability issues.
- It will tell you what code the check engine light is on for.
- It doesn’t reset your radio presets, clock, or seat memory.
- It does require getting dirty.
- It can be done from inside the vehicle no dirt, no fuss, no need to pop the hood. You can even do it while it’s raining.
- Requires you to have access to or purchase a scan tool or code reader.
Option 2: Disconnect Battery
This option is easy to do and most people have the tools to do it, but it will reset your clock, radio presets, and seat memory.
Locate your vehicle’s battery. For most vehicles, it will be located under the hood, but for some, it may be located in the trunk or in another area of the car.
Disconnect the negative terminal of the battery. It will usually be labeled with a (-) negative symbol and colored black.
Touch the negative cable end you just disconnected to the positive terminal still connected to the battery. The positive terminal will be labeled with a (+) positive symbol and colored red. Hold it there for 1 minute. This will fully drain the vehicles capacitors and fully reset all the vehicle systems.
- Tech tip: If you can’t touch the negative cable end to the positive cable end, disconnect the positive cable end and touch the two cable ends together.
Reconnect the battery terminal end(s). Connect the positive terminal first (if removed), followed by the negative.
Start the vehicle and verify that the Check Engine Light is off. If the light comes back on, you will need to diagnose and repair the concern that is causing the code.
- If you have a couple of wrenches, it costs nothing to do.
- Resets the clock, radio presets, and seat memory.
- Time-consuming (takes 10-15 mins)
- May be difficult if the battery is not easily accessible
- May require you get a bit dirty
Option 3: Drive Vehicle Until Light Goes Off
This option doesn’t always work, but it can in some cases. Simply drive the vehicle for approximately 3 days and let the vehicle do its own self-check; if it decides the concern has been resolved or is no longer an issue, it will turn off the Check Engine Light itself. If the light comes back on, you will need to diagnose and repair the concern that is causing the code.
- Requires no extra effort
- May not work
- Can take several days
- Doesn’t tell you why the check engine light was on
- If there is a problem with the vehicle, you could cause damage driving it without knowing what code(s) it has.