Check Engine Light After Oil Change: Causes & Solutions

Written by

Charles Bolte

FACT-CHECKED BY

Vernon Hoppe 

check engine light after oil change

When the check engine light after an oil change suddenly illuminates, it can be alarming because it means something is wrong with your car’s engine. However, don’t panic immediately. The problem could be as simple as a loose oil cap. Meanwhile, some issues require professional help.

Thus, keep reading to discover those other reasons, how to diagnose them, and what you can do to fix them.

What is the Check Engine Light? How Does It Look?

check-engine-after-oil-change

The check engine light can be found in all vehicles (whether Toyota, Chevy, Honda, or some other brand and model). It may also be known to you as the malfunction indicator light.

That light indicates to the car’s user that there is something wrong with the engine or its components. It usually appears as an engine-shaped outline that illuminates yellow, orange, or amber colors when there’s an issue with the engine.

There are several reasons why it will illuminate. However, if the alert comes after an oil change, we can narrow it down to a few cases.

Common Reasons Why Check Engine Light is on After Oil Change

Will the check engine light go off after an oil change? Ideally, it should not.

But since the oil tank is near the engine and the oil is essential to the engine’s functions, an oil change can cause the check engine light to turn on. Here are reasons why I can specifically do that:

1. Oil Cap Not Fitted Properly

loose-oil-cap

The oil cap seals the tank so that the correct pressure and oxygen levels are maintained in the engine. If those levels aren’t normal because the cap was loose or put on backward, the check engine light could turn on.

2. Oil Dipstick Is Not Fully Seated

Oil-Dipstick-Is-Not-Fully-Seated

A fully seated dipstick has an O-ring that seals passageways for air to pass through and enter the engine. When the O-ring cannot close, oxygen imbalance can damage engine parts. Thus, that might be the reason why the engine light came on.

3. Overfill or Underfill Oil Tank

High or low oil can cause the check engine light to come off.

If there is too much oil, various issues can arise, such as smoke coming out of the tailpipe, and these can easily set off the check engine light.

Meanwhile, if there’s not enough oil, the engine components are left unlubricated, which can lead to damage between metal parts.

4. Incorrect Oil Grade

Incorrect-Oil-Grade-cause-the-Check-Engine-Light-is-on-After-Oil-Change

Specifically, too-thick oils cannot be circulated through the engine. Meanwhile, too-thin products cannot thoroughly lubricate the parts.

Either way, the components are unprotected, leading to engine damage or malfunction that can trigger the check engine light. Thus, only fill with the correct oil grade.

5. Oil Filter Issues

When changing the oil, you’ll also be changing the oil filter. The filter is crucial in ensuring clean and sufficient oil flows through the engine.

Thus, if you did not install the new filter properly or the one you have doesn’t match your oil grade, issues can arise that would cause the check engine light to illuminate.

6. Low Oil Pressure Level

Low-Oil-Pressure-Level-cause-the-Check-Engine-Light-is-on-After-Oil-Change

Sometimes, the engine or oil tank is fine. It’s just that the oil level gauge takes time to process the fact that you’ve just filled the tank with oil.

Thus, it will continue relaying a below-normal reading to the car’s computer, which triggers the check engine light to turn on.

7. Oil Leak

The oil goes through various passages and tubes to circulate the engine. If those are damaged, the oil can leak onto the engine parts, which can cause more damage than just an illuminated check engine light.

Oil leaks can also result from excessive oil levels and an improperly installed oil filter.

How to Fix Issues That Cause Check Engine Light to Turn on

To resolve those issues above and turn off the illuminated light, you can check the engine after an oil change and implement these recommended solutions according to your car’s problem:

1. Let the Engine Run for Awhile

Let-the-Engine-Run-for-Awhile-to-Fix-Issues-That-Cause-the-Check-Engine-Light-to-Turn-on

As the engine runs, it gives the gauge time to read the oil level correctly. It also lets the oil circulate, and the pressure normalizes.

But if the check engine light is still on after stabilizing the oil pressure, you should check for other causes and proceed with the solutions below.

2. Return the Oil Cap Properly

If the oil cap is loose or put on backward, you must thread it correctly to turn off the check engine light. To ensure it’s placed correctly, the writing on the cap must be facing you instead of inside the tank.

3. Ensure the Dipstick Is Fully Seated

Ensure-the-Dipstick-Is-Fully-Seated

If the oil cap wasn’t the issue, then check the dipstick. Readjust it so it is firmly and fully seated. Ensure that there are no clogs or blockages inside its tube.

4. Fill the Tank Until Normal Level Only

While inspecting the dipstick, you should also check whether abnormal oil levels caused the check engine light illumination. If it’s below normal, you can add oil. Meanwhile, above-normal oil levels can be resolved by draining or siphoning the oil.

5. Replace with the Correct Oil Grade

Replace-with-the-Correct-Oil-Grade-to-Fix-Issues-That-Cause-the-Check-Engine-Light-to-Turn-on

If you realize the oil grade you’ve filled the tank with does not match the engine, you should change it immediately. After this oil change, the engine light should turn off because you already have the correct viscosity added.

6. Replace the Bad Oil Filter

bad-oil-filter

When the issue is with the oil filter, you can replace it with the correct one. Ensure it is installed correctly to avoid turning on the check engine light.

7. Fix Oil Leaks Immediately

An immediate solution for an oil leak would be to use a stop-leak additive. However, the best way is to resolve the leak’s underlying cause, such as excess oil or the wrong oil filter.

Other Possible Causes of Engine Light

It’s also likely that the check engine light turned on not because of the oil change but to signify other issues.

For instance, if you or the gas pump attendant didn’t put the gas cap on properly after getting gas, it can trigger the check engine light.

There could also be problems with the sensors that relay issues to the car’s computer. Meanwhile, if your car is shaking and the check engine light is on, then there might be a problem with the spark plugs, fuel pressure, ignition coil, or other components.

You can use a code reader if you don’t want to play guessing games with your engine light. It scans and displays codes for specific issues, which you can verify with the car manual or the Internet.

How to Reset Check Engine Light

If the check engine light won’t turn off after an oil change, here are manual ways to reset it:

1. Using a Code Reader

Here’s how you can use a code reader:

  1. Attach the code reader to the correct port.
  2. Allow it to scan for codes.
  3. Note the codes so you can look them up.
  4. Find the erase option to remove the codes. That should also reset the light.

2. Using the Reset Stick

Here’s how you can use a check engine light reset stick:

  1. Find the check engine light reset stick on the gauge cluster, most likely between the speedometer and tachometer.
  2. Before touching or pressing that stick, turn the key in the ignition without starting the engine. The indicator lights should also turn on.
  3. Press the reset stick. Do so until the check engine light blinks.
  4. Remove your key.
  5. Insert the key again, turn it, and start the engine.

3. Using the Gas Pedal

Here’s how you can use the gas pedal to reset the check engine light:

  1. Turn the ignition key without starting the engine.
  2. Ensure the indicator lights are on.
  3. Step on the gas pedal thrice. Do so quickly.

You can do all these methods without seeking professional help. However, it’s advised to have the latter.

Professionals are more capable of finding the cause of the check engine light illumination rather than just resetting it and ignoring the issue.

Tips to Prevent the Check Engine Light From Coming on After an Oil Change

engine-light-on-after-oil-change

Here are some ways you can avoid the light from coming on after an oil change:

  • Conduct the oil change properly: A properly conducted oil change shouldn’t trigger the light.
  • Use the correct oil grade and filter: Even if you completed the oil change correctly, you’d have to do it again if the wrong oil or filter triggered the light.
  • Conduct regular engine maintenance: Maintenance procedures ensure that the engine’s components are functional and free from damage. If there is damage, it is addressed immediately to avoid further and severe harm to the engine.
  • Keep your vehicle’s manual: The manual is an essential reference. Reading and not losing it will help you prevent and address issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

will-check-engine-light-go-off

Can I Still Drive My Car With The Check Engine Light On?

If the light is steady, you can drive your car even while the check engine light is still on. However, you should inspect the cause of the illumination as soon as possible and resolve it immediately.

If the light blinks, the problem is severe; thus, it’s best to stop your car and resolve the issue. When you can’t address or identify the problem, seek professional help.

How Long Does The Check Engine Light Stay On After Oil Change?

If the check engine light turns on because of low oil pressure, it should only stay onfor 10 to 20 cycles after letting the engine run.

However, if the issue isn’t low oil pressure, the engine light will continue illuminating until the problem is resolved or you reset the light.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix The Check Engine Light After An Oil Change?

The cost depends on the issue that caused your check engine light to turn on. For instance, reseating the dipstick or putting the cap correctly won’t cost you anything. However, you might need to pay up to $400 for a repair.

However, if there are underlying issues with the engine, you might have to spend more as you’ll seek professional help and replacement parts.

How Often Should I Change My Oil Filter?

The oil filter should be changed every time the oil is changed. The standard used to be every 3000 miles, but developments have allowed new cars to run longer without changing oil.

Thus, you might have to change your new Ford or BMW’s oil less often than your old Jeep. Refer to your manual for the actual mileage.

Conclusion

The check engine light, after an oil change, could turn on because of an unseated dipstick, abnormal oil levels, wrong filter or oil grade, or leak. Those should be resolved immediately, or you risk severe consequences if you let them persist.

However, there are times when there’s no real issue. Just the sensors and gauge not being able to catch up with the change in oil level. In that case, you only have to let the engine run to turn off the light.

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