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Check Engine Codes (How To Extract + 17 Common Codes)

October 27, 2021

Your check engine light can turn on for various reasons, making it difficult to understand what’s really wrong with your vehicle.

However, don’t worry.
This is when you can turn to check engine codes because they’ll help narrow down the exact issue.

But how do you interpret each check engine light code?

In this article, we’ll explain how you can extract check engine codes, teach you some common check engine codes, and answer a few check engine code-related questions.

This Article Contains:

Let’s start.

How To Extract Check Engine Codes? (Step-By-Step)

Your check engine light turns on when your OBD system (onboard diagnostics) detects an issue or some malfunction.

However, to figure out why your check engine light is illuminated, you need to extract and read the generated diagnostic trouble code or codes (DTC). To do so, you require an OBD scan tool or code reader that you can connect to the OBD port. 

Depending on your OBD scanner type, the scan tool will:

Now let’s learn how to extract check engine codes with a scanner:

With the check engine light code extraction instructions in mind, let’s also go through some check engine light codes.

Common Diagnostic Trouble Codes For Check Engine Lights

Knowing every diagnostic trouble code seems impossible. But there are some you can get familiar with to help you understand your car’s issues better.

Here are some of the most common check engine light diagnostic trouble codes:

A. P0100-P0199: Fuel And Air Metering

The diagnostic codes P0100-P0199 alert vehicle owners about fuel and air metering as well as their car’s oxygen levels. Here are some of their short descriptions:

B. P0200-P0299: Fuel And Air Metering (Fuel Injector Circuit)

Codes P0200-P0299 deal with fuel and air metering (fuel injector circuit). Here are some of the error code meanings:

C. P0300-P0399: Ignition System And Misfire

Codes P0300-P0399 indicate engine misfire or issues with the ignition system. Here are the descriptions of some of them:

D. P0420, P0430: Catalytic Converter

Fault code P0420, as well as code P0430, are associated with the catalytic converter. Here’s what they mean:

Now that you know how to extract check engine codes with a code reader or OBD scanner and are familiar with some common codes, let’s answer a few FAQs.

3 FAQs On Check Engine Codes

Here are some commonly asked check engine light questions with answers:

1. What Causes My Check Engine Light To Come On?

Your check engine light can light up for a variety of reasons.

Here are some common reasons why your OBD system may generate a diagnostic code and light up the check engine light:

2. Can I Drive With The Check Engine Light On?

If your check engine light comes on while you’re on the move, don’t panic.

Check if your vehicle is behaving any differently from usual.

For example, did your fuel economy drop even though you just filled your fuel tank?
Then you mostly need to get your oxygen sensor checked.

However, if everything seems normal, you can keep driving. 
However, it’s highly recommended to get your vehicle checked by a mechanic as soon as you can.

If the check engine light isn’t just illuminated but is flashing, you should pull over right away. A flashing check engine light is an indication of major damage or malfunction.

That’s because a flashing check engine light typically implies your engine is misfiring. A misfire can harm your engine or catalytic converter.

3. How To Interpret An OBD Code?

An OBD code or diagnostic code is quite easy to understand. Just break down your trouble code into 4 sections.

A. Section One

The first character of the diagnostic trouble code is always a letter.

It can be:

B. Section Two

The second section of an engine code consists of the next character, a single digit.

It can be:

C: Section Three

The third section in a check engine code includes the third character, which can be a digit between 0 to 9.

D: Section Four

The fourth section consists of both the fourth and fifth characters (digits). They can be anything between 00 to 99.

These two numbers in an OBD code describe the fault code.

However, there are tons of fault codes. So, to understand the issues, you’ll have to go online and find an OBD code or check engine code interpretation website or contact your mechanic for help.

You can also refer to your owner’s manual provided by the vehicle manufacturer. 

Final Thoughts

Check engine codes are your saviors. They help you pinpoint a problem when something goes wrong with your vehicle, even if it’s just a loose gas cap.

Now that you know how to extract and interpret check engine codes, all you need is a trustworthy mechanic to fix your issues.

Why not go for RepairSmith? 
They’re a mobile auto repair and maintenance service solution.
With RepairSmith, you get affordable services, ASE-certified technicians, and easy online booking.

Contact them to diagnose your check engine light code today!