Service Engine Soon Light: What You Should Know?

by Rosemarie Hardison
service engine soon light

If you take a look at your car’s dashboard, you’ll find a lot of light indicators that are meant to guide you about the status of the car. One of these lights is the “Service Engine Soon”, which is usually written in word form.

When this light pops up, you might be confused about the condition of your car and what you need to do, and that’s where this quick guide comes in handy!

In today’s article, I’ll provide you with a brief explanation of this light as well as the reasons why it may shine on in addition to what you need to do to ensure the longevity of your engine! Let’s jump right in!

What Does Service Engine Soon Light Mean?

The “Service Engine Soon” light is one of the easiest dashboard warning lights to interpret because it’s often written in word form rather than images.

This light indicator is often confused with the “Check Engine” light, which is represented by an image of a motor engine, although they have slightly different meanings. The light usually serves as a warning or a reminder to get the engine serviced or maintained.

What Are The Possible Causes for This Light to Appear?

There are several causes for the Service Engine Soon light to appear, and they vary in terms of urgency. Let’s have a quick look at these possible reasons:

1. Engine Servicing Reminder

As previously mentioned, this light is sometimes programmed by certain car manufacturers to light up whenever the car is either nearing its routine maintenance schedule or well after.

In terms of urgency, this is possibly the least critical one on the list. However, checking the car in at the service center as soon as this light pops up will help you extend the life of your engine dramatically!

2. Car Fluids Are Running Low

Similar to the previous case, some car manufacturers set this warning light to trigger whenever the fluids in your vehicle, such as engine oil, go below a certain level that can start damaging the engine.

3. Gas Cap Leaks

If your gas cap isn’t properly sealed after refueling, the service engine light might end up popping up.

This is because fuel vapors will start to leak and reach certain sensors on the engine, which trick them into thinking that the engine’s performance is getting low, and therefore, it may require servicing.

In some cases, the leaks from the gas cap can be significant, which causes the “check engine” to come on instead, so it’s always worth it to check the gas cap for any leaks or cracks.

4. Dusty Filters

Since this light is mainly a reminder to service the engine and several car parts when their performance is impacted, filters are some of the most common parts to trip that wire!

If you live in an industrial area where there’s a higher concentration of particulates in the air, some filters like the air, gas, and cabin filters, will need replacements much earlier than expected.

5. Worn Out Spark Plugs

If you notice that your car is having a hard time starting, misfiring, or making weird noises while idling or speeding up, there’s a huge chance that you’ll find the “Service Engine Soon” light lighting on.

In that case, you might want to check the integrity of the car’s spark plugs and wires, as they’re mostly worn out and need replacements.

6. Malfunctioning Sensors

Lastly, there are plenty of sensors in your vehicle that are responsible for monitoring the performance of your vehicle and are set to trigger the “Service Engine Soon” light when there’s a noticeable decline in the performance of the vehicle.

The two most common sensors that may cause this light to appear on your dashboard are the mass airflow and oxygen sensors.

The oxygen sensor is responsible for adjusting the ratio between the gas and oxygen that goes into the combustion chamber, while the mass airflow regulates the amount of gas needed depending on the airflow.

If any of these sensors are malfunctioning, certain parts of the vehicle can get damaged, such as the catalytic converter.

What Should You Do If Service Engine Soon Light Illuminates?

First, you shouldn’t panic, as this light isn’t usually an indicator of a serious problem. If you have some experience in car mechanics, it’s always a good idea to stop the car and check the vehicle’s oil levels as well as the current mileage since the last time the car was serviced.

However, if the light continues to shine on after fixing the apparent culprit, you should consider scheduling a visit to your vehicle’s service center as soon as possible.


Can I Still Drive with the Service Engine Soon Light On?

The short answer here is yes. “Service Engine Soon” light is usually a reminder or a warning for a non critical situation, at least at the beginning, although it’s always best to check the engine as soon as possible.

How Long Can You Drive with the Service Engine Soon Light On?

This mainly depends on the cause of the light to come on in the first place. But as a general rule, you can drive the car for about 300 to 500 miles, which is about 1 to 2 weeks’ worth of causal driving.

Wrap Up

There you have it! A brief guide with everything you need to know about the Service Engine Soon light, including its difference from the “check engine” light and the possible reasons that cause it to pop up.

As you can see, there’s no need to panic if this light comes on, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that your engine is broken down, but it’s always best that you get your vehicle’s engine checked as soon as possible.

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