How To Read Ford Check Engine Light Without a Code Reader

By | March 12, 2023

How To Read Ford Check Engine Light Without a Code Reader Step 3
Anyone who has an engine light come on will no doubt like to know what the problem is.

The standard way is to use an OBDII scan tool which will give the error code, and can then be looked up.

But what if you dont have a scan tool?

Most vehicles have a built-in diagnostic system that can be displayed on the odometer window.

This can change from manufacture make model and year.

Below are the steps I found to check the codes on a 1999 Ford without an OBDII scan tool.

This may or may not work; let me know in the comments if it works for you.

Basically, the odometer button is pressed and held, and the key is turned on to the accessory.

Several tests can be done in test mode by cycling through them, including testing the dashboard bulbs and showing any engine codes.

Dashboard Abbreviations Meanings

  • DTC = Diagnostic Trouble Code
  • CEL = Check Engine Light
  • ā€œPā€ = Problem Trouble code

How To Read Ford Check Engine Light Without a Code Reader

  1. Press and hold the reset button for the odometer.
  2. Turn the key to Accessory.
  3. Keep holding the button until the words TEST appear.
  4. How To Read Ford Check Engine Light Without a Code Reader Step 3

  5. Once the words TEST appear let go of the odometer button and press it again to cycle through the onboard test.
  6. Push the button to dtc, which will give the error code.

Using the steps above works for many Ford vehicles but may not work for all.

If it does not work for you, there are free and low-cost ways to read the engine error codes.

The most common free method is to go to an auto-parts store, such as Auto Zone with many will scan the vehicle for free.

Be sure to call around first as it may vary from store to store but most offer free OBDII scans, in my experience.

If your car or truck is not driveable, most auto parts stores also have loaner scan tools for a deposit; again, call around first.

A very low-cost method is to use an OBDII Bluetooth scan tool that pairs with a smartphone and can read and clear codes.

OBDII Bluetooth scan tools are very low cost, often $10-$15, making them a good low-cost solution.

Read here for more on Bluetooth OBDII scan tools.

21 thoughts on “How To Read Ford Check Engine Light Without a Code Reader

  1. Edward Way

    Won’t work on my 1999 e150 van . Don’t have digital odometer

  2. Joseph Rhodes

    It worked for my 08 ford f-150, so thank you for the knowledge! Here’s mine, if you own a obd and someone asks to borrow it tell em hell no to buy their own cuz chances are they won’t return it!!

  3. Chelsey Conkle

    How do you check on a newer 2016 Ford if it dont have the button to reset ododmeter?

  4. michelle dillon

    My 2002 doesnt have electronic speed ometer so is there any way to pull codes

  5. Sarah

    This worked on my 02 f150 I had to turn the key to run instead of accessory though

  6. Lane Allen

    My check engine light is on and I know the codes but it doesn’t show through this test. It is very helpful because it allows you access to several other things that can be viewed and even changed dealing with the engine. For instance I dont have a tach gauge but can have it viewed digitally to replace odometer display. Very handy

  7. Steven Ross

    2001 ford Escape. Hold Odometer reset and turn ignition to on position release odometer button then start. Use odometer reset button to scroll through menu to DTC

    1. auki wari

      I tried it on 2007 ford ranger xlt but didn’t work, so any idea on that?? Need help

      1. William McDonnell

        DTC= Diagnostic Trouble Code
        CEL= Check Engine Light

        Your trouble codes will all start with a “P”.

        Good luck…

  8. Keithco

    Worked perfectly as you said. Now I just have to determine what the codes mean.
    Thanks so much for the information. I can’t thank you enough. My truck is a 1999 F150 4.2L
    I would have driven to a parts store to have the codes read but it would no have made it.
    Thanks again,

  9. Patrice Johnson

    My dtc is blank on my 2015 ford explorer. I guess I’ll have to go get it read


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