How To Check Your Engine Light

The dreaded engine light, often symbolized by an ominous amber or red glow on your car’s dashboard, can strike fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned drivers. It’s an early warning system, alerting you to potential issues with your vehicle’s performance. Fortunately, with the right knowledge and tools, you can decode what your engine light is trying to tell you and potentially save yourself a trip to the mechanic. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of how to check your engine light.

Find your OBD2 Port

Before you can begin diagnosing the reason behind your illuminated engine light, you need to locate your vehicle’s OBD2 (On-Board Diagnostics) port. This port is typically located under the dashboard on the driver’s side, near the steering column. It might also be near the center console or behind a cover. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for specific instructions on its location.

Once you’ve identified the OBD2 port, make sure your vehicle is turned off, and the key is removed from the ignition. This is a crucial safety step to prevent any electrical mishaps while connecting the scanner. Once your vehicle is safely powered down, you’re ready to proceed to the next step.

Plug in your Scanner

Now that you’ve found your OBD2 port, it’s time to connect your OBD2 scanner. These scanners come in various shapes and sizes, but they all share a common feature: a plug that fits into the OBD2 port. Carefully insert the scanner’s plug into the port until it clicks into place. Ensure it’s securely connected to avoid any potential connection issues during the diagnostic process.

With the scanner securely connected, it’s time to power it up. Most OBD2 scanners are powered by the vehicle itself, so you don’t need an external power source. Simply turn the ignition key to the “On” position without starting the engine. The scanner should light up, indicating that it’s receiving power and is ready to communicate with your vehicle’s onboard computer.

Follow the Prompts

Once your scanner is powered up and communicating with your vehicle’s computer, you’ll typically see a menu or a series of prompts on the scanner’s display. The exact interface may vary depending on your scanner’s make and model, but the general process remains the same.

Follow the on-screen prompts to select the “Read Codes” or “Scan for Codes” option. The scanner will then initiate a scan of your vehicle’s onboard computer for trouble codes. These trouble codes are alphanumeric combinations that represent specific issues detected by the vehicle’s sensors. When the scan is complete, the scanner will display one or more codes that correspond to the illuminated engine light.

Check the Code/s

After successfully establishing communication, the OBD2 scanner will display any trouble codes that triggered the check engine light. These codes are alphanumeric combinations that represent specific issues within your vehicle’s systems. Make note of these codes, as they will serve as a starting point for diagnosing the problem. You can either refer to your scanner’s manual or search online for code definitions specific to your vehicle’s make and model. Understanding the codes will help you identify the issue, whether it’s related to the engine, transmission, emissions, or other components.

Fix the Problem

Once you’ve identified the trouble codes and their corresponding issues, it’s time to address the problem. Depending on your level of automotive expertise, you can choose to tackle the issue yourself or seek professional help. For simple problems like a loose gas cap or a malfunctioning sensor, you may be able to fix them on your own. However, for more complex issues, it’s advisable to consult a qualified mechanic who can diagnose and repair the problem effectively.

Turn Off That Light

After addressing and fixing the underlying issue causing the check engine light to illuminate, it’s time to clear the trouble codes and turn off the light. Many OBD2 scanners offer the option to clear trouble codes directly from the device. Follow the prompts on your scanner to clear the codes, and the check engine light should turn off. Remember that if the issue persists, the light will likely return, indicating an unresolved problem.

Check the Light is Gone/Check Live Data

To ensure that the problem has been successfully resolved, start your vehicle and verify that the check engine light remains off. It’s a good practice to drive your car for a short distance to confirm that the light doesn’t reappear. Additionally, many OBD2 scanners allow you to check live data from your vehicle’s sensors, providing real-time information about various engine parameters. This can be helpful in monitoring the health of your vehicle and detecting any potential issues before they trigger the check engine light.


In conclusion, checking your engine light is a straightforward process that can save you time and money by identifying potential issues with your vehicle before they escalate. By finding your OBD2 port, plugging in your scanner, following the prompts, checking the codes, and taking appropriate action to fix the problem, you can effectively address the cause of your engine light and ensure your vehicle runs smoothly.

Remember that while some issues may be simple and easily fixable, others may require professional attention. If you’re unsure about the severity of a particular issue or how to address it, it’s always a good idea to consult with a qualified mechanic. Regular maintenance and prompt attention to engine light warnings can help keep your vehicle running reliably and extend its lifespan, ultimately saving you time and money in the long run. So, don’t fear the engine light – embrace it as a valuable tool for keeping your car in tip-top shape.