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Larry, Automotive technical expert
Category: Car
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Experience:  30 years automotive technical writer, editor & author
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96 Saturn: service engine soon..Manual says it is..check engine light

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Have a 96 Saturn SL1 -has "service engine soon" light on. Manual says it is not "check engine light" and go to dealer. How can I find out about about this?
If your Service Engine Soon light is on, it means your engine's onboard diagnostic system has detected a fault that may cause your engine's emissions to increase. When the light comes on, a diagnostic trouble code is set that corresponds to the fault. To findout what this code is, you need to take your car to a repair shop, dealer or auto parts store so they can plug in a scan tool to read the code. Most repair shops and dealers chage $75 to $100 typically for a plug-in diagnosis, but you can get it done for FREE at an AUTOZONE auto parts store.

Once you have the code (there may be more than one), you will have a much better idea of what the fault is and what part(s) might need to be replaced.

For more information on this subject, take a look at these articles listed on the following page:

Customer: replied 9 years ago.
I had the scanner plugged in and there were no codes present. Is this different from check engine light?
The Check Engine Light is the same thing as the Service Engine Soon Light. The technical name for it is actually the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL). On some vehicles are are no words, just a little icon outline of an engine.

If no codes were found, it could me the engine experienced a momentary glutch, or a momentary misfire.

If the light does not come back on, don't worry about.

If the light does come back on, or flashes, it means another fault has been detected (probably the same fault as before).

A basic scan tool will not read "history" codes (codes that were set in the past but are no longer current). But a professional grade scan tool should be able to access any codes that were set in the past. Off hand, I don't know if the scan tools that AutoZOne uses have this capability, but I doubt it.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
O.k. There are 2 displays on the dash- service engine soon and service engine with a wrench icon.

The service engine soon light is still on. Service engine light with icon never was on.

Hope this helps. Thanks !
Leave it to Saturn to come up with such a confusing pair of warning lights:

Here's what the Saturn manual says:


The SERVICE (Wrench) telltale is turned On by the cluster when it receives a command from the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) , Body Control Module (BCM) , or the Electronic Brake Traction Control Module (EBTCM) , The PCM or BCM will turn the SERVICE (Wrench) telltale On for all non-emission related diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that require that a telltale be turned On (some DTCs do not turn on a telltale but are stored to aid in diagnosis).
The SERVICE (Wrench telltale will also be turned On if the EBTCM has detected a fault in its own warning indicator system. If the Antilock Braking System (ABS) system cannot turn on its own telltale, a message will be sent to the cluster to turn on the SERVICE (Wrench) telltale.
The SERVICE (Wrench) telltale will be displayed for 2-3 seconds during startup for bulb check purposes.

If the warnign light on your Saturn WITHOUT the wrench is the only one that came on, that would be an emissions fault. The one with the wrench would be for any other non-emissions fault.

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