Reader Question: Maintenance Required?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Krista asks: My ’05 Toyota RAV4 has a “maintenance required” light that has come on and won’t go out. Does this mean I need to get a code cleared?

Is it ok to drive the car?

My reply: Your Toyota’s “maintenance required” light is actually an oil change reminder light that automatically comes on after a certain mileage/time interval . . . to prompt you to have the oil changed. Many people understandably confuse this light with the more serious “check engine” light – which indicates a problem with one of the car’s systems, usually emissions control-related.

The “maintenance required” light will come on – and stay on – even after the oil has been changed, unless the system is reset (see pic below for the procedure). Either way, there’s no mechanical (or electrical) problem with the car and so no reason to stop driving the car. It’s mainly an irritation – if the light comes on and you can’t figure out how to make it go out.

The “check engine” light, on the other hand, should prompt action. It may have come on for a minor reason such as a loose gas gap but it could be something else, such as a bad oxygen sensor or some other thing which – if not corrected – could lead to expensive troubles if not dealt with.

You’ll need to have the vehicle connected to an OnbOard Diagnostics (OBD II) code reader, to find out what’s wrong – and to clear the code (which will turn off the “check engine” light).

The car companies ought to do a better job of explaining the difference between “maintenance required” and “check engine.”

Since they haven’t, I hope this helps!

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. eric, My Z 71 has had Check Engine Light and check engine oil level and check four wheel drive plus a light for no fuel. It has done this even when I’ve already replaced the oil and filter and it shows 6 quarts, I have changed the oil in the transfer case and transmission and they’re full and have just filled up and have new air and fuel filters and new spark plugs, spark plug wires and new coils. Do I need to call a tow trucks? Damned glad it doesn’t have those air pressure things. I can unhook the battery and it will stop these things……briefly. Everyone I know with a shop says I should replace the entire gauge cluster and the Stereo(seems like these tucks won’t work without the stereo system). Or would you do as I and ignore the entire thing except when one “doesn’t’ come on?

    • My 89 K1500 gets a “service engine soon” light whenever I drive it out on the highway. Then it goes away after you shut it off and restart it. Nothing seems to be wrong.

      The RWAL apparently went out so I unplugged it. I’ve got the front axle permanently locked so I took out the 4wd fuse. I’ve driven a lot of miles in pickups without a light to tell me whether the shifter is in 4wd.

      • I had to go to a nearby town yesterday to pay my acetylene and Oxy bottle lease and get a couple items at the grocery store. Seems like every time I go to that town(about once a year……it’s a little shithole)my pickup picks up a new error code. I wasn’t surprised to see it come up with one I’d never seen before Change Engine Oil. Typical, it has new oil and filter. After 20,000 miles Amsoil is still cleaning that engine. I need to change transmission fluid again too.

        This time I’m going to use that plug I bought for the pan and not have to drop the pan every time. I’ll do it every 20,000 miles or so, sooner if I worked it hard.


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