Service Engine Soon Light Meaning: Here’s What You Need To Know

Maintaining the quality of your vehicle is essential, especially if you’re a person who mainly uses their cars for traveling. We all know that our vehicles function through the use of engines, which all the more gives us a responsibility always to check its condition.

A malfunctioning machine is equal to a malfunctioning car that can put you in trouble and unforeseen circumstances, which definitely, no car drivers or riders would want to experience. A simple way to keep your car on top of its game is by checking your dashboard’s indicator lights often.

Is your car’s “service engine soon” signal lighting up? Then, there’s probably a problem with your engine. You better get it checked now!

What is a Service Engine Soon Light?

Service Engine Soon, abbreviated as SES and also known as Check Engine light, is a clear indication from your vehicle that it needs immediate attention. It will light up cases where it detects a minor (or major) problem related to the car’s electronics or engine.

Usually, when it’s a minor problem, a few manufacturers opt for their service engine soon light rather than check engine lights. Check engine lights will most likely only light up if your car faces a critical problem.

Gas gauge with the service engine soon light.

At other times, the SES light can also come up if your car’s scheduled service is coming up. It could be related to spark plug or oil replacements. The SES light may light upon these occasions if your vehicle’s manufacturers have designed it this way.

Again, a small number of manufacturers only put one indicator, the SES indicator, for minor engine problems and scheduled services like this.

The Regular Causes of a Service Engine Soon Light

A service engine soon light can come on while you’re driving, which means that your onboard diagnostics system (OBD) detected some kind of problem with your car. Please note that this indicator may come up differently depending on your vehicle, as vehicle manufacturers may change their designs or models.

A warning device was displayed along the road due to a car problem.

To give you an idea of what must have caused your service engine soon light to turn on, here are a few causes you should check in with:

  1. Even a loose or faulty cap of the fuel tank can prompt your service engine soon light to come up. The cap for your fuel tank that is loose or has cracks can cause vapor leakage, which may be the cause on why the SES lights up. It’s not a problematic issue, but it can increase your fuel consumption. If you’re not a fan of getting your vehicle gassed constantly, then you better get this checked soon.
  2. Your vehicle’s scheduled service is coming up. As mentioned above, if you have scheduled service or your scheduled service is overdue, the SES light will come up.
  3. Your car has low fluid levels, such as low oil, brake fluid, coolant, and the like. You can either have an oil change or your oil level dropped to a critically low level for this problem. If it’s the latter, get it checked immediately.
  4. Your vehicle’s wires or sparks plug needs to be replaced. A car’s wire (or any electronics in general) can wear and tear as you use it repeatedly. You will know that your SES light has come up because of this problem if your acceleration, rough idles, and hard starts are difficult to initiate.
  5. There’s simply just contaminated gas. If this is the cause, then it will eventually go away after pumping a tank or two of uncontaminated gas.

Do not self-diagnose your car if you’re not knowledgeable. Even if there’s a high possibility that you are facing any of the usual causes mentioned above, it is still better to get your vehicle checked by a professional. In this way, you’d be sure that your ride is getting the correct diagnosis, attention, and cure that it deserves.

Things To Do in Case of Service Engine Soon Light Appearance

Now that we have presented to you the typical causes of a service engine soon light, here’s what you’re going to do if it happens on your vehicle and you’re driving on the road.

  1. Have a read on your repair manual for your car model’s service engine light specifications.
  2. Check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels. This includes the engine oil level, coolant level, brake fluid level, wiper washer fluid, and automatic transmission fluid.
  3. Is your fuel tank’s cap tightened? If not, give it a good twist, and it might fix your SES light.
  4. Run your engine and check if you can hear strange noises.
  5. Check your scheduled service’s history manual to know if it’s the time for your service.
  6. Basically, check if it might arise from the common causes we listed beforehand and fix it from there.
Mechanic holding OBD scanner near the car’s dashboard.

Still can’t figure out the problem by yourself? If you own an OBD2 scanner, it might help you find the problem. You can also schedule your car for a professional service or take it to a workshop.

A Recurring Service Engine Soon Light: What Shall You Do?

A recurring service engine soon light means that you haven’t fixed the problem it is detecting. You have to recheck and take another good read of its diagnostic trouble codes to get more information about the issue. Once you reread its diagnostic trouble code, you might finally eliminate the problem.

If there’s still no progress and it reappears, schedule a service for your car or take it to a workshop for a professional service.


Your car’s dashboard is one of the most fundamental parts that need special attention every time a signal lights up. It directly gives you an update about the “what about” of your ride, helping you detect what’s wrong. You will know when you need immediate attention from car professionals.

Never be bold enough on ignoring the dashboard’s lights, especially your service engine soon light. You don’t want any accident that can harm your vehicle, and yourself too!

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About Matthew Webb

Hi, I am Matthew! I am a dedicated car nerd! During the day, I am a journalist, at night I enjoy working on my 2 project cars. I have been a car nerd all my life, and am excited to share my knowledge with you!

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