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

What do you do when the engine management light comes on, and how do you safely turn it off?

Used Mazda 6 - engine light

It'll generally happen when you're least expecting it: you're driving down the road, not a care in the world, when suddenly an orange engine logo lights up on your dashboard. What is it? That's the engine management light, and it's warning you that there is a potential problem under the bonnet.

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

What is the engine management light?

The engine management light is one of the number of warning lights that's set within the instrument cluster on your car's dashboard. You're most likely to see it when you turn your ignition on, as all the dashboard lights come on and quickly go off again as your car starts up. The light is connected to your car's engine control unit (ECU), and is the first indicator of issues with the engine's electronic 'brain'. This controls things such as the fuel and air mixture and the ignition timing to help your car's engine run smoothly.

Jeep Grand Cherokee dash lights

If the engine management light stays on when you turn on the ignition, or if it comes on while you're driving, it means there might be a problem under the bonnet. Unfortunately, there's no simple DIY fix for this, and your next port of call will be your local garage. If your car is still under warranty, then a trip to your nearest franchised dealer is on the cards.

Once there, the technicians will be able to connect a laptop to your car's On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) port, and they can download codes from the ECU that are created when a fault occurs. This is when you should brace yourself, because different fault codes indicate different problems, and they can range from the trivial, such as a faulty sensor, to problems with items such as the pollution control valve that manages your car's emissions.

How do I turn the engine management light off?

Once the problem with your car has been located and fixed and the vehicle is running smoothly again, the technician working on your car will reset the car's ECU so that the engine management light goes off. Sometimes the system will need a second reset, while some main dealers will also take the opportunity to give your car a software update with the latest data from the manufacturer.

If the light doesn't go off, or it comes on again soon after repair, then it may mean there are still problems with your car. If the dealer is confident that there is no fault with your vehicle, then get them to do another reset of the engine management light. And if it comes on again, put pressure on your garage to get to the bottom of what is causing the light to come on, because it shouldn't come on at all for no reason.

Now read our complete guide to Main dealer car servicing...

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