Blog Car Care Advice What Does the Wrench Light Mean and Is it Safe to Drive?
Car Care Advice

What Does the Wrench Light Mean and Is it Safe to Drive?

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Your car has something to tell you through this wrench icon – leaving you puzzled about what could be at play here.

While you may have heard about the Check Engine Light, this one may feel like a complete stranger!

What does the wrench light mean?
What causes it to come up?

We’ll introduce you to this warning light and get into the details behind it.

This Article Contains:

Let’s get going!

What Does the Wrench Light Mean?

The illuminated yellow or orange wrench symbol on your dashboard can mean different things depending on the make of your vehicle. It can be anything, ranging from a pending oil change to a throttle issue.

Some manufacturers, such as Mazda and the Honda Motor Company, provide the light as a maintenance reminder that signals your car is up for its scheduled maintenance. This can include:

If you have a Ford car or truck, the wrench light indicates a problem with your vehicle’s powertrain system. This could be due to an issue related to the engine, driveshaft, or transmission.

To ascertain what does the wrench light mean for your vehicle, you can check the owner’s manual. You can also use an OBD-II scanner to read the error code registered with the wrench light and determine the cause behind it.

But before you grab the scanner and hunt for the culprit behind the illuminated wrench symbol, let’s explore what could be at play here.

5 Causes for an Illuminated Wrench Light

Here are the five common triggers that can set off this dashboard light:

1. Oil Change Required

The wrench light may come up as a regular maintenance reminder if your car’s engine oil has a low remaining oil life. An oil light may also accompany it if the engine has low oil pressure.

What’s oil life? 

Oil life indicates in percentage the quality of engine oil depending on factors such as mileage, engine temperatures, trip durations, etc. E.g., in a Honda Accord, the wrench warning light shows up when the oil life reaches a value of 15%. Your mechanic will reset the oil life to 100% after an oil change.

2. Transmission System Issues

Problems related to the transmission system, such as low transmission fluid due to a leak, can result in an illuminated wrench icon in Ford vehicles. This warning can also be caused by faulty transmission sensors or Powertrain Control Module and problems with the four-wheel drive system on your Ford (if it has one).

3. Faulty Electronic Throttle Body

The throttle body may get clogged due to carbon deposits and result in a wrench light warning.

A faulty electronic throttle body can prompt the Powertrain Control Module to turn on the limp mode. A throttle issue could also result in:

4. Bad Battery

A discharged or weak battery in a Ford vehicle may result in an orange or yellow wrench light warning. This can also be related to a faulty alternator that isn’t charging the battery properly or a failed serpentine belt.

Note: For other cars, a faulty battery will usually trigger the battery indicator light or the Check Engine Light on the dashboard.

5. Wiring Problems

A loose wiring connection with the Powertrain Control Module (PCM) or to the sensors can result in a fault code getting registered by the PCM along with an illuminated wrench light.

How seriously should you treat the wrench light, and will it render your car unusable?
Let’s find out.

Can You Drive With the Wrench Light On?

Whether you can drive with the warning depends on what does the wrench light mean for your car.

If it signals that your vehicle should undergo its routine maintenance inspection by a mechanic, you can still drive your car. However, it would be better to get it inspected promptly to avoid expensive repairs later on.

In case the wrench light is accompanied by another malfunction indicator light (e.g., Check Engine Light or low oil light), you should find out what that other light means. You can look for the registered error code and get your car inspected soon enough.

However, if the wrench light serves as a powertrain malfunction indicator light, as in a Ford, you shouldn’t drive the car and have it checked by a mechanic ASAP. Depending on the nature of the problem, your vehicle may also enter the limp mode. You may have to get it towed to a workshop or get a mobile mechanic service like AutoNation Mobile Service to help you out.

Coming up next are a few related questions you may have.

4 FAQs About the Wrench Light

Here are answers to some questions that’ll help you better understand the wrench light and the things that may accompany it.

1. How Is the Wrench Light Different from the Check Engine Light?

The wrench light is a part of the maintenance reminder system of certain vehicles, such as a Honda or Mazda, and functions as a powertrain malfunction indicator light on Ford vehicles.

The Check Engine Light, on the other hand, is a standardized warning light available on all vehicles and can indicate anything from a loose fuel cap to engine knocking.

2. What Is Limp Mode?

The limp mode is a safety feature offered by some vehicle manufacturers. It limits the speed and deactivates other features in case the PCM detects a serious problem with the car, e.g., overheating, transmission issues, etc. An electronic throttle body problem can also trigger the limp mode on your car.

The purpose of limp mode is to reduce damage to the car’s engine and transmission caused by driving it with a fault. Limp mode generally limits the RPM to 3000 and the maximum speed to around 40 mph.

3. What Do the Maintenance Minder Codes Indicate on a Honda Vehicle?

The Maintenance Minder is a regular maintenance alerting system by the Honda motor company. It presents a code along with the orange or yellow wrench light according to your Honda’s maintenance schedule. 

The code helps you know what does the warning light mean and the scheduled maintenance service that your Honda Accord (or any other Honda model) requires. 

Here “A” and “B” are the main codes, and the numbers (1,2,3, etc.) are the sub-codes accompanying them. 

4. Why Is there a Wrench Light but No Code on Your Ford?

If you notice a wrench light on your Ford dashboard but no error code is detected using an OBD-II scanner, the following factors can be responsible:

Wrapping Up

The wrench light can be an indicator to check your maintenance schedule or signal a powertrain issue. Consult the owner’s manual to determine what this light mean for your vehicle. Whatever causes the wrench light to come up, you should get it inspected and fixed by a professional  — like AutoNation Mobile Service

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