How Long Can You Drive With The Service Light ON? (Know It!)

how far can you drive with service engine light on

Modern cars come with an assortment of warning lights, dials, and gauges, all meant to alert drivers when something in the car isn’t functioning correctly. One of the easily defined warnings is the service light.

How Far Can I Drive With The Service Light On?

The service light usually comes on when you’re about to cross 4,500 miles since the last time you serviced your car or got an oil change.

It’s worth noting that manufacturers link the service light to your car’s odometer. It comes on so you can get your car serviced before hitting 5,000 miles. Therefore, you can drive approximately 500 miles with the service light on.

This duration is not definite either. Your car can drive more or fewer miles than this mark, depending on road conditions and your driving style. Often, the service light will stay on until you get an oil change and reset it.

What Does It Mean If the Service Light Comes On?

We’ve all been there; you start your car heading to work or driving down the road when suddenly, a yellow light appears on your dashboard saying ‘Service Engine Soon.’ This fills your mind with worry and uncertainty because your car looks, handles, and feels fine.

What’s wrong with my car? Is it safe to continue driving? Should I pull over? What does this light mean? How much will it cost to get it repaired? These are some of the questions that will pop inside your head.

Different Colors Of Service Light And Their Meaning

The service light can appear in two colors;

  • Yellow. This indicates a minor issue. You can diagnose it yourself or take it to the workshop at your earliest convenience.
  • Red. This indicates a significant issue. Once it appears, stop, turn off the engine and get your car towed to a certified service center for an inspection.

You should not worry because the service light isn’t as dangerous as it may seem. Depending on your car’s make and model, the service light could mean different things.

  • For most cars, this light reminds you that it is time for scheduled service. Some car manufacturers will even include a mileage countdown which will trigger the service light to alert you.
  • On the other hand, the service light could indicate a minor problem with your car’s electronics.
  • In other cars, the service light may indicate minor engine issues or minor exhaust emission issues.

What To Do Once The Service Light Appears?

The chances are you won’t have your diagnostic tools when the service light appears on your car’s dashboard.

But, this doesn’t mean you cannot take any action. When the service light comes on, park and check the following:

  • Refer to the service light pages if you have the owner’s manual. It will provide specific information about what the service light means depending on your car’s specific make and model.
  • Check all your car’s fluid levels, including brake fluid, engine oil, wiper washer fluid, coolant, and the automatic transmission fluid level. Insufficient fluid levels mean issues with the car, which triggers the service light.
  • Confirm that your fuel tank cap is tightened correctly. The fuel cap keeps gasses from leaving the fuel tank. A loose or broken gas cap reduces fuel efficiency and increases emissions, causing the service light to come on.
  • Listen for strange noises coming from your car’s engine.
  • Check your car’s service history manual to confirm if it needs service. You can opt to call an authorized dealer if you have a digital manual service or check the dashboard menu for any information.

If you can find any problems during the inspection, take your car to a certified service center for professional inspection and diagnosis.

A trained mechanic will inspect your car and identify what is triggering the service light. They will fix the problem and get your car back on the road in good condition.

Is It Safe to Drive With Service Engine Light On?

You can drive safely with the service light on since most of the service light triggers are minor issues that can wait for a few hundred miles. However, it’s best to check all fluids to ensure they’re at the recommended level before you continue driving.

While your car’s drivability is intact for the next few miles, driving for a long time with the service light on can lead to extensive wear and tear on the engine. Neglecting regular oil changes will shorten the engine’s lifespan.

Repairing and replacing engines is very expensive. Therefore, if you’d like to keep your wallet full and your vehicle in great shape, ensure you take your car in for regular maintenance and service.

How Do I Turn My Service Light Off?

Once you repair the issue, the service light will disappear on its own. If the service light remains even after repairs, you need to reset it to fix the error.

You can do it yourself or let your mechanic do it. You can turn off the service light by disconnecting the car battery or using a scanning tool, the latter being the most effective method.

Using The Battery Disconnect Method

This method works on most vehicles. However, some newer models will not clear trouble codes by disconnecting the battery. Such cars have their trouble codes stored in the ECM’s ROM, meaning that only a scan tool can clear them.

For the battery disconnect method, follow these steps:

  • Locate your car’s battery and disconnect the 12V negative cable (black wire).
  • Leave the battery disconnected for 5 minutes. Cycle the car’s ignition switch to ON three times during this time.
  • Ensure that the engine is off and reconnect the battery’s 12V negative cable.
  • Set the ignition switch to ON, wait about 60 seconds, and then start your car
  • Confirm if the service light is off.

If the service light is still on, consider using a scan tool.

Using A Trouble Code Scan Tool

Before resetting the service light, ensure you have accurate and updated information about your car’s maintenance properties and status. You can buy a scan tool at a local auto parts store or borrow one from a friend.

If your car is more than 15 years old, you’ll need an OBS System. On the other hand, if your car is less than 15 years old, you’ll need the OBD-2 system. Besides turning off the service light, the scan tool can read live streaming engine data, retrieve stored trouble codes, and clear trouble codes.

Once you have the scan tool, locate the interface within your vehicle. You can start checking under the driver’s seat, under the hood, the left side of your dash, or near the engine. Refer to the owner’s manual if you can’t locate the interface.

Once you’ve found the interface, connect the tool and turn it on. The scan tool will display a unique code; be sure to note it down somewhere. Then, you can click on the ‘Service Engine Soon Light’ option and select ‘Erase.’

When you complete this, disconnect the scan tool from the interface and restart your car to confirm that the service light is off. Ensure that you keep the code somewhere safe in case the service light is still on after restarting the car.

Summing Up

A good car owner recognizes the importance of keeping their car in excellent condition. Diagnosing and treating a service light is a requirement to ensure that your vehicle is in great shape and that you’re safe on the road. Therefore, do not ignore the service light; get your car checked as soon as possible.

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