Service Engine Soon: Don’t Panic When the Light Turns On

There are many things that can instantly send a panic to any driver, especially the new ones. A good example of this would be when the Service Engine Soon light turns on. A lot of you may be wondering what it means and what needs to be done. Do not immediately assume the worst. The light means that there is a problem, but in most cases, it can be easily fixed.

When the service engine soon light is activated, you might be scared thinking that you will spend a lot of money to fix the problem. While this can be true in some cases, as it will be shown in the succeeding discussions, the problem can be minor and you might not necessarily need an expensive part replacement or repair.

Service Engine Soon

What Does Service Engine Soon Mean?

Before we start with the discussions, one important thing to keep in mind is that your vehicle’s brand will matter. Service Engine Soon BMW may be different from Service Engine Soon Toyota, as well as with other brands. The differences can be in the form of the words that show in your dash or the color of the light that will appear as a warning.

Time for Routine Maintenance

More often than not, the light would mean that you need to service vehicle soon. One of the first things that you have to do is to look at the mileage of the car and determine the last time that you had it serviced. If it is now time to have it brought to the mechanic for a routine inspection, this is most probably the reason why the light has turned on.

Low Oil Level

As we all know, oil is an important part of the engine as it provides cooling and lubricating benefits to ensure peak performance all the time. If the oil level is already beyond what is needed by your car, the service engine soon light will turn on. An oil change is probably long overdue once the light is on.

Low Anti-Freeze

The anti-freeze is one of the most important liquids in an engine, especially if you live in a place that is extremely cold. It runs in a circular motion to help retain the temperature of the liquid, and hence, prevent it from freezing. If you do not have an anti-freeze, the engine can crack, among other potential problems.

Defective Mass Air Flow Sensor

The main purpose of the mass air flow sensor is to monitor the amount of air that will be passing through the engine. The service engine soon light can also indicate a problem with the mass air flow sensor, which can be damaged or dirty. The wrong installation of the air filter or being dirty are some of the reasons that could trigger such a problem.

Problematic Spark Plugs

If the spark plugs are misfiring, the service engine soon light might also be activated in your dashboard. Keep in mind that in the case of new vehicle models, you need to replace the spark plug after running for about 150,000 kilometers and approximately 40,000 kilometers for older vehicles.

Damaged Oxygen Sensor

The oxygen sensor makes it possible to determine the amount of unburned oxygen that is present in the exhaust. If it is not changed properly, it can affect the catalytic converter, which will be costly to replace. If the oxygen sensor is the problem, replace it as soon as possible to avoid worsening the damage on the other parts. Problems with the sensor can reduce fuel efficiency.

Loose Fuel Cap

Another common problem that should be checked when the service engine soon light turns on is having loose or off fuel cap. This is one of the easiest things to address as you just have to tighten the cap to stop the light from being activated.

Problems with Emissions and Exhaust System  

An issue with the emission and exhaust system can also trigger the service engine soon light. When the sensors trace a problem, it will communicate it to the computer of your car, and in turn, the light from your dash will provide you an immediate notification.

Problems with your Computer

The computer of your car acts as its mind. It communicates any crucial information that you have to know. In some cases, it can be faulty, especially when there are wiring issues. When the computer is damaged, one thing that can happen is that the service engine soon light might be activated even when no problem is traced.

What Should You Do?  

Now that you are familiar with some of the reasons why the service engine soon light is activated, this section will tackle some of the most important things that you can do. Again, the key here is to act as soon as possible to prevent the issue from escalating and being more expensive to address.

Pull Over

As soon as the light turns on, pull over on the safe side of the road. You will not instantly know whether the problem is minor or major. This makes it important to stop for a while and have the time to carry out an inspection to determine the problem.

Use a Diagnostic Tool

There are many tools that you can buy as an investment and one of the best would be an On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) II Scanner. The latter is a small device that will help you to determine the actual problem based on the codes that will be displayed. It will help in the elimination of guesswork as you would instantly know what is wrong and what should be done to have it corrected.

Regular Inspection and Period Maintenance

To prevent the light from turning on in the future, you have to inspect the vehicle regularly and see to it that it is properly maintained. To start with, check the fluids and the oils to be sure that they are at the right level. If the components are already showing obvious signs of wear and tear, have them replaced the soonest.

Bring your Car to a Mechanic

If you cannot figure out what seems to be wrong with your car or if the problem is too much for you to handle, the safest thing that you can do is to instantly bring it to a mechanic. They have the experience and the expertise, as well as the necessary tools, which will be required to correct the mistake in your vehicle.


As shown in the discussions above, service engine soon light sends a warning that there is something wrong. It can be as simple as having a loose cap or as serious as having damaged components in the engine. Some of these problems can be easily resolved on your own, but while others can seem complicated, and hence, an intervention from an experienced mechanic will be necessary.


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