Tuesday 21st September 2021

What to do when the engine warning light (MKL) lights up

Reading time approx. 6 Minutes

Engine control light MKL lights up red What you should do when the engine control light (MKL) lights up

If the engine control lamp, or MKL for short, comes on while driving, most drivers panic. The lighting up of the yellow warning symbol indicates a fault in the car from the built-in on-board diagnosis. But what should you do if you are on the road and the engine control lamp suddenly comes on?

What is the MKL actually?

Engine control light MKL lights up 3 What you should do when the engine control light (MKL) lights up

Since the end of the 1990s, almost all cars have had on-board diagnostic systems that quickly detect a technical defect and inform the driver of the car. The engine indicator light is shown as a uniform symbol in all cars. The yellow-orange engine always appears when the driver starts the car. If there is no defect, the symbol disappears after a short moment. If the symbol for the MKL remains on the display even after starting the ignition, there is probably a technical fault. This error must be read out and corrected so that the car cannot suffer any further damage.

What if the engine indicator light comes on?

Carly VW BMW Mercedes Co. OBD Adapter Test 2 What you should do when the engine control lamp (MKL) lights up

If the engine warning light suddenly comes on while driving, this is no reason to panic. If the car starts completely normally and there are no abnormalities, the driver can usually drive home, or rather, to his workshop without any worries. The MKL lighting up can have many different reasons. It doesn't always have to be a major technical defect. Sometimes it is just a sporadic problem that can be solved by switching the motor on and off again. Only error reading in the workshop can provide precise information. Nevertheless, the type of lighting can often be used to determine whether the fault in vehicle technology is serious or whether it is a minor defect.

  • The MKL lights up shortly after starting the ignition:
    - In this case everything is fine, no action is necessary.
  • The MKL does not light up when the ignition is started:
    - The control lamp itself has a defect
  • The MKL lights up briefly:
    - This is a short-term error by the MKL, quick action is not absolutely necessary.
  • The MKL lights up continuously while driving:
    - This is a permanent technical error. The driver should have this fault rectified in the workshop in the foreseeable future. However, there is no acute danger to the engine
  • The MKL flashes quickly several times in succession:
    - Be careful, you shouldn't let time pass by this warning signal. The on-board system has detected a serious engine fault. For example, there could be a combustion misfire. The car should be presented to a workshop immediately.

What errors can there be?

Motor Swap BMW E46 M3 1988 BMW M3 27 What you should do when the engine warning light (MKL) comes on

A car is complex and offers a lot of possible sources of error. An undervoltage in the vehicle battery can already light up the MKL or a defective glow plug (diesel engine). A loose contact on a cable (for example on the air mass meter) could also be the trigger. Only the specialist can specifically determine which deficiency caused the MKL to be triggered.

What does it cost to have the MKL error read out?

In order to determine the exact cause of the defect, the fault must be read out in the workshop. The reading can be done within a few minutes and costs around 30 to 80 euros depending on the workshop. This amount is usually offset against the repair costs for repairs in the same workshop. Depending on their location, ADAC members can often have errors read out in ADAC partner workshops free of charge. Often there is also the possibility for a donation to the famous one Coffee machine to get a fault selection much cheaper. A so-called OBD diagnostic device be helpful with smartphone APP. You can often get it for less euro and so you can read out the vehicle data yourself and sometimes delete / change it directly.

How to read the fault memory yourself?

Vehicle Diagnostic OBDeleven Experience Test tuning 3 What you should do when the engine indicator light (MKL) lights up

Anyone who owns such an OBD2 diagnostic device can read out the error directly if the device is compatible with the respective car. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that a multitude of causes can cause the defect, especially in the event of errors in the engine, and the diagnosis with the error reader usually does not indicate any repair instructions. So you should only try it if you really know what you're doing. We have already tried it! In the event of a fault in the engine, laypeople should better rely on the knowledge of a specialist to avoid serious consequential damage. You should also refrain from deleting the error in general with the diagnostic device and neglecting the further procedure for a repair. This can lead to much more damage. If, at your own discretion, the error is only minor (battery undervoltage after a long idle period, etc.) and perhaps even marked as "sporadic" in the reader, a first attempt at deleting it is, in our opinion, definitely helpful. If the message then reappears, it is mandatory to go to the workshop.

no TÜV with glowing MKL

If the engine control lamp lights up, you get none new HU / AU badge.

in summary - engine control lamp (MKL):

  • If the engine warning light comes on or flashes, this indicates an error
  • Engine indicator light is also called MKL (color: yellow, shape: engine)
  • a permanent light or flashing stores an error message in the error memory
  • Error message can be read out using a diagnostic device - Diagnostic system (OBD II)
  • MKL
    - Lights up only with ignition: no fault
    - Ignition does not light up: engine control lamp defective
    - The engine control lamp flashes briefly: temporary error
    - Engine control lamp permanently on: permanent error detected
    - rapid flashing of the engine control lamp: serious error
  • Common sources of error: swirl flaps in the intake tract, air mass meter, lambda probe, leaks in the intake or exhaust tract, defective pressure sensors, defective crankshaft and camshaft sensors, misfires, fuel injection, defective catalytic converter, spark plug, ignition coil, injection valve, etc.
  • Read out the fault memory: in the workshop mostly at prices between 20 and 80 euros, duration: less than 25 minutes
  • Readout also possible via app using a diagnostic connector (OBD2 diagnostic device)
  • The exact cause of the damage can often only be identified by removing / disassembling the component in question
  • Deleting errors stored in the error memory using the OBD-2 diagnostic device should only be carried out for simple and sporadic errors
  • none new HU / AU with illuminated MKL

There is even more information on the topic in our article "Causes & consequences of an active engine control light!". But what if the engine is not running smoothly? Then maybe our contribution on the topic "uneven engine running" continue.

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