Fixing a disconnected Check Engine Light

1997 Ford 150, V6, 4.2L. Purchased used and dealer disconnected the check engine light (I found out when I went to get it inspected - failed emmissions, but fixed now). Checked the bulb in the instrument cluster and that’s OK. Would like to get it re-inspected and they require the check engine light to be working. Anyone have any ideas as to what to look for at this point ?? In other words, the check engine light was “on” when I got it inspected (through the code reader), even though the light on the dash isn’t working and was off. The remainder of the lights on the cluster seem fine and the CEL doesn’t come on when the truck is started.

I think it is a federal offense for the dealer to tamper with the check engine light. I’d twist their arm to fix it.

The engine computer turns the check engine light (MIL) on when the ignition is first turned on, as a bulb check. If it doesn’t come on for the bulb test, the wiring, or the engine computer, have a fault. You may have legal recourse against the dealer. Check with your state attorney general for comsumer affairs.

Good luck with that, eh? “Yes, you honor. Before they leave our lot all of our cars are full inspected for compliance with federal emissions laws…Oh, and by the way, here is the “as is” contract signed by the plaintiff…”

How did the “Dealer” disconnect the “check engine” light? I would think the light circuit involves pathways on a printed circuit board,just wondering.

It’s much easier to fix whats causing the light to illuminate than disabling it (in terms of consequences) so perhaps the “Dealer” is not the correct one to point a finger at.

Look for a snipped wire on the connector(s) to the engine computer.

Last time I checked it is the dealers responsibility to have the vehicle inspected upon sale to a consumer. It’s that way in NY State.

Or on the circuit board near the CEL, check for a cut trace on the board, just a little blemish with an Exacto knife… But why go looking for trouble?? But as Ranck mentioned, the dealer can not sell “tampered” vehicles and with a little squeezing, should make this good…A phone call to the dealer licensing board may be needed to provide the motivation…

I took a quick look at the diagrams for my 97 Explorer (yours might be the same).

On my Ex the connector for the wire between the CEL & the PCM is under the hood drivers side fender.

Poke around in that area & you might get lucky.

But as mentioned the dealer should fix this.

Go back to the dealer and politely ask for a proper vehicle or you will sue them for fraud and damages. It is illegal for someone to offer for sale a vehicle modified with respect to required emmission control systems. This includes the engine light. They should listen when you say this.

All great answers to the posts - thanks !
Here’s what I found : Dealer had “stuffed” a tiny piece of paper in the socket of the bulb for the CEL. I went back and switched out sockets and bulbs and traced this back to the socket and eventually found this. So the CEL now works. As for suing the dealer, it would be virtually impossible to prove anything. It would be my word against theirs. I do KNOW for certain though, that the CEL was ON when I test drove the truck because I mentioned it to them and they told me they would have it fixed. Well, they did fix it ! When I picked up the truck, I should have noticed that the CEL didn’t light up when I first started the truck - that should have been the tip off that something was going on. I’ll chalk it up to experience and move on. Thanks again for all the answers to the posts.

Given that part of the back story, I would call your local BBB and report this incident. I don’t think it is worth your time to pursue - but the more people do bother to report the more we, as consumers, can try to keep things a little “cleaner” out there.

And now the $64 question: What is the trouble code associated with the CEL??

P0153 & P0401 - posted them a few weeks ago. O2 Sensor and EGR flow problems is what was replied.

I would STILL present your case to the dealer. Worst case, they blow you off. But if you point out the CEL was on when you test-drove the truck and they said they would fix it, and then, after purchasing the truck you discover they had tampered the system instead of fixing it, they MIGHT come around…And a call to the Dealer Licensing Board doesn’t cost anything either…Your call might be strike 3 for that dealer…

If the check engine light was ON, and the dealer said, “We’ll take care of it”, but, didn’t (you found the MIL lamp disabled), the emission controls system was TAMPERED with. This is a Federal offense. Call the EPA of the State and of the U.S. of A.

I live in Mass and bought this vehicle from a dealer in Rhode Island It was sold in “as is” condition. Although I totally agree with everything written in the posts, I am positive that in the end, it would be my word against theirs and a total waste of time on my part. Like I said before, I’ve chalked it up to experience and am moving forward. I can’t prove that they tampered with it, even though I know that they did. Luckily it didn’t cost me anything to fix the CEL and a small amount of $$ to fix and clear the codes.

You don’t have to PROVE that the dealer tampered with the check engine light. You can still file a complaint with the BBB and the EPAs. Other people might have been bamboozled in the same way. If the EPA gets enough complaints, they can take investigative action. A case is built complaint by complaint. They might, even, do a “sting”.