An illuminated check engine light (CEL) can make your heart sink a little. This might indicate that it’s time for a long-dreaded and delayed visit to a mechanic. However, if the check engine light is off but the error code is there, what could it mean?
This could set in a panic mode for some drivers, especially when you are on the way driving somewhere. Keep reading to find out the reasons behind this problem and ways to fix it.
Some of the reasons behind this problem could be non-emission-related issues in the car, pending codes, wiring issues, etc. Any intermittent problem that can get remedied on its own can also trigger an error code but not turn on the CEL.
5 Reasons Why Your Check Engine Light Off But Code Still There
The Check Engine Light (CEL) or the idiot light or the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) alerts you that there is a problem with your car. You will find it on the dashboard or instrument panel of your vehicle. Usually, the CEL will illuminate after the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) identifies a problem and stores a corresponding error code.
However, in some cases, you can get a trouble code without the CEL glowing. Or maybe the CEL was illuminating earlier and you tried addressing the fault. So, the light has now turned off but your car’s scanner still has some pending code.
We know how stressful the above situation can be. Not to worry, we’ll tell you why you might be facing such a problem and how to remedy it:
#1 Problem Was Remedied On Its Own
Perhaps, the code might not have been able to trigger the check engine light. Perhaps the issue isn’t that serious and the code is simply pending. Such a case means that there is nothing to worry about.
Another possibility is that whatever the issue might have been, it has been solved on its own. Sometimes some minor issues get resolved on their own, but since the code has been already sent, it stays in the memory.
Solution: So, if your check engine light is off but you get an error code, use an OBD2 scanner to check what the problem might be. Then, proceed accordingly.
#2 Code Left In Long Term Memory
When a code is set, it generally stays in memory even after the check engine light goes off. If the problem was due to an intermittent cause then the code will get erased if the problem doesn’t reoccur. Generally, the code clears out within two weeks.
Solution: In this case, you can keep using your car without clearing such codes. However, if you want to, then you can clear the codes yourself by resetting the check engine light and the dash code too.
#3 Non-Emissions Related Problems
Keep in mind that non-emission-related car problems generally don’t trigger the CEL to turn on. The non-emission-related problems refer to all those issues that don’t affect emissions. For instance, a problem with the AC compressor relay won’t turn on the check engine light but will send a code. Similarly, other such problems could be a corroded terminal, wiring issues, etc. Generally, in these cases, the code displayed is a fault code which deals with the circuit or some system that requires further checking.
Solution: Check out the code and try to decipher it. Based on that, you need to take a look at the unit that might need repairing. If you can’t solve the problem on your own, take your car to a mechanic and they will fix the problem.
#4 Pending Codes
Pending codes are a category of error codes that won’t light up the CEL but the error code will be shown. This warns you of a certain system acting up in your car. For example, a temperature sensor that operates in the range of 90-110 degrees but reads something beyond or lower than the range might show a pending code. This won’t trigger a warning light though if the reading is somewhere between 80 to 120 degrees since this is an acceptable range.
Solution: You need to decode the code displayed and then proceed to fix the problem indicated by the code. For this, you need an OBDII scanner and a smartphone to decipher the code and then proceed from there.
#5 PCM Electrical Problem
The PCM may have some wiring issues or a poor electrical connection. Maybe that’s why your CEL is not illuminating while the code is still there. It could also be due to the engine sensor failing or some stuck valves.
Solution: You need to inspect all the wires, cables, fuses, and all other connections. Then try to narrow down what the problem might be. Keep in mind if these CEL issues pop up only during the rainy season only, then perhaps you need to check the hoses.
You can also perform a complete CEL diagnostic to figure out all the engine controls that require fixing. Here’s a video tutorial to help you out with the same:
Getting an error code can be frustrating especially if the engine light isn’t illuminated with it. If you have resolved a problem and the check engine light turns off but the code is still there, then the situation can seem even more confusing. We hope the above article has helped you figure out the possible reasons why you are getting an error code but no check engine light.
Knowing these reasons will help you stay clear-headed if you face such an issue in the middle of the road while driving. Also, we recommend that you take your car for maintenance as scheduled so that such issues related to CEL and error codes don’t arise in the first place.