Can an oil change cause a check engine light?

What’s a check engine light?

The check engine light also called the malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) is important for your car.

When it lights up, it usually means there’s a problem with parts of your car’s engine or emission system.

An image of a car showing check engine lights
A car with check engine lights
Source: shutterstock

What’s the purpose of a check engine light?

The check engine light is a warning sign for your car, telling you about possible early on.

Ignoring the check engine lights could mean:

  1. Using more fuel
  2. Producing more emissions
  3. Causing potential damage to the engine

Causes of the Check Engine Light on After Oil Change

If the check engine light comes on right after an oil change, it can be worrying.

You might wonder what went wrong when you just had the oil changed.

Surprisingly, there are a few reasons for the engine light after an oil change.

We’ll explore these causes in this section:

  1. Wrong Oil

Engine oil is like a vital lubricant for your engine’s parts, making sure everything runs smoothly.

Different engines need specific types of oil to work their best.

If you use the wrong kind of oil, it can mess up this balance and might cause engine issues, turning on the check engine light.

An image of technician adding oil to a car engine
A technician adding oil to a car engine


  1. Proper Oil Levels

Using the right amount of oil during an oil change is crucial.

Adding too much or too little can cause problems.

Too much can create too much pressure, causing leaks and damaging parts.

Too little can lead to poor lubrication, causing engine issues and turning on the engine light.

  1. Issues with oil filters

The purpose of an oil filter is to keep the engine oil clean by removing dirt and debris.

A malfunctioned oil filter can reduce oil flow and pressure, making the check engine light come on.

This often happens after an oil change if the old filter wasn’t replaced correctly or if a low-quality filter was used.

To avoid this, it’s essential to regularly change your oil filter during maintenance.

  1. Damaged Oil cap

The oil cap seals the oil reservoir, keeping contaminants out and allowing the oil to circulate properly.

If the cap is loose or damaged, it can break this seal, allowing air to enter and causing a drop in oil pressure.

If the oil cap is loose or damaged, air can get into the oil system, causing the engine sensors to give incorrect readings.

This can lead to the check engine light coming on, indicating a problem that might not be real.

  1. Low Oil Pressure

For the engine to work smoothly, it requires proper oil pressure.

If the pressure is too low due to issues like a faulty sensor, oil leak, or damaged oil pump, it can trigger the oil change light and check engine warning light.

Ignoring this problem can lead to engine damage.

Solutions to Check Engine Light on After Oil Change

  1. Use of the correct oil type
  2. If the oil cap is damaged, replace it with a new one compatible with your vehicle’s make and model.
  3. If it’s simply loose, tighten it securely to ensure a proper seal.
  4. Regularly replacing your oil filter as part of your maintenance routine can prevent engine light issues.
  5. Evaluate oil filters and If the filter is damaged or clogged, replace it promptly to restore proper oil flow.
  6. Checking and correcting oil levels.


 When to visit a mechanic

If the check engine light continues even after you’ve tried fixing it, there might be a more complicated issue that needs a professional to diagnose and repair.

Importance of regular maintenance

  • Regular maintenance inspections help catch and fix issues before they cause the check engine light to come on.
  • Having a reliable mechanic you trust ensures professional help when necessary, providing peace of mind while driving.


One thing that won’t trigger a check engine light is a recent oil change done correctly.

Oil changes are essential maintenance for your car but it won’t do anything that could trigger your check engine light to come on.

If you notice the light after an oil change, something else is wrong.

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