What Does the Wrench Light Mean on a Ford

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what does the wrench light mean on a ford
Photocredits: Chris Isherwood, flickr.com

Current versions of the vehicles made by Ford industries, particularly the 4WD and the AWD, sometimes show wrench light. Most users must have wondered, what does the wrench light mean on a ford? We would be discussing that and more in this article.

You see, the cars of nowadays are ultra-modern. Some of them have the ability to predict future problems with the car. They can also help prevent accidents. And to what do we owe appreciation other than the brilliance of science and technology.

Those two have been helping and will continue to help the world. An example of some of these helpful technologies is the parking sensor that is found in modern cars.

The parking sensor works to tell the driver that an obstacle is behind when he is parking his car. The parking sensor makes use of ultrasonic or electromagnetic waves. This is quite helpful since humans can’t quite see what is behind them.

In the same vein, the Ford indicates a light to show that something is wrong or will go wrong if care is not taken. In most cases, the light does not mean that the fault is severe and would cost a lot of money.

The problem may just be a small one like leakage of the windshield seal. This does not require you to spend a lot in getting a mechanic to fix it.

If you prefer learning by video, watch here:

So, What’s Up with the Wrench Light Anyway?

The light in a Ford vehicle simply means that something is wrong. The light is yellow in color and it is shaped like a wrench. Ford cars have wrench lights which serve as indicators that there is a malfunction of the powertrain.

Whenever the computer in the car finds out a problem on transmission or engine, the light comes on. And when it does, the performance of the Ford vehicle is greatly inhibited.

In some cases, when the light of the wrench comes on, the engine light also comes on. This means that the problem is with the transmission or the engine.

So, whenever wrench light comes on, wait for some seconds to see if the engine check light will also be turned on. If it does, there you go, the problem is the transmission or the engine .

The two lights that are mentioned above are similar in some ways. Sometimes, they come on together. What differentiates the two is this: the indicator light shaped like a wrench is a sole make of Ford motors.

Whereas the engine check light is one of the onboard diagnostics. It is a system that checks error in all the cars that are produced in the United States of America. This was started in the year 1996. The indicator light could also mean that there is a problem with transmission and throttle control.

When this light comes on, the car automatically goes into zombie mode. This is to curtail mechanical stress that is placed on the particular part of the car that is having a problem. The light can come on when you have a low boost.

Furthermore, it can also come on when your system has a really low voltage. Unusual difference in temperature between cylinder head and block can also cause the light to come on. If the oil cooler is faulty, the light can come on as well.

In some cases, when the light comes on, it means that your car needs proper check up and maintenance. Please do take your car for a check. Some other times, it could mean that there is a problem with the wheel drive or a powertrain.

The light will cause the fault codes which are stored in the memory of the computer to be activated. When this happens, you have two choices; treat the cars yourself or get a mechanic to take car of it after diagnosis.

What Do You Do When the Light Comes On?

Step One – Clear Codes

The very first thing that is expected of anyone whose light comes on is to pull over. There is not much choice about that anyway because the car would practically start crawling and some vital functions will shut down.

You can neither shift on transmission nor move further. But do not panic when you are in this kind of situation; it is not the end of the world. What counts is what you do after the light comes on. The first? Pull over. And the second? Get help quickly.

The computer of the car would most probably store the DTC (diagnostic trouble codes) even when the engine check light is not on. Inactivated codes do not cause the engine check light to come on. If you’ve got the OBD scanning tool, fetch the codes.

On the flip side, if you do not have the scan tool, you can get one at any store that is around you that deals on parts. They may even help you scan your car computer for free. 

If you are extremely far away from a local store dealing on car parts, do not fret. We know that the car may be hard to move to the car parts store because the power of the engine is limited. If this is the case, you can turn the engine off, then restart after some time.

The wrench indicator light may just disappear. If this happens, the car will start and will drive as if nothing happened at all. But be warned; the issue is not yet fixed, and the light would come on again. Hence, it is vital that the computer is scanned ad the diagnostic codes gotten as fast as possible.

Should the restarting work, you can do the diagnosis by yourself if you feel very okay doing that. You can do a little bit of trial and error, a little bit of guess work. You have to find out what causes the light to come on.

For instance, while trying out few things, you discover that the light switches on anytime you shift the gear to 3. When this happens, you can already guess that the issue here will be located in your transmission.

When the problem has been discovered, you can proceed to the mechanic who will help you get rid of the problem. The information about what causes the light to come on is vital even if you are not a do it yourself kind of person.

If you are reading this and thinking about getting a scanning tool, you are thinking rightly. But pay attention. Some of the inexpensive scanning tools out there are not worth the trouble or the cash.

This is because they cannot read pending or inactive codes. Neither can they read the specific codes of the manufacturer. Examples of these specific manufacturer codes are the U-codes, C-codes, and the B-codes.

In fact, by experience we can say that most times, specific codes by the manufacturer begins with P1xxx. This means that you would have to get a fantastic one. Earlier on, only few codes that professionals use could detect these problem codes. And they were awfully expensive.

However, improvement in technology has made the cost to reduce. Some cheaper ones can still do the job very well. The Bluedriver scan tool is one that is tethered to an app, a smartphone app. For some car producers like Ford, you could get all of the trouble codes.

Make sure that you get the DTCs whenever the light comes on. If possible, do it immediately. Another thing that you can do is to check the ETB. The ETB stands for electronic throttle body. It is vital to check the ETB if you have ridden your vehicle for a large number of miles. That is, if the car has high mileage.

The build up of carbon and sticky gunk in the ETB could cause your throttle plate not to move properly. This will cause the computer to be confused as it cannot find the correct placement for the throttle .

Whenever this happens, your computer would turn the indicator light on, and this will cause the engine to go to limp mode. If you find that the ETB is dirty, you can quickly clean it with a suitable cleaner and do idle relearn method.

Make sure that you are not confusing the wrench indicator light with the change oil reminder light. Some people make that mistake and it is quite unfortunate. Even on YouTube and other social networks, some people make videos on handling wrench light. Few mistake wrench light for oil light.

The video will show how one can change the oil light rightly, but the two lights are not the same.  They have quite different meanings and should not be confused. Wrench lights are warning lights while the oil lights are reminder lights.

And when it comes to Ford, very few Ford cars have the change oil reminder light. The Ford models with this feature are the Ford Fiesta 2013, 2012, and 2011. The newer and older models do not have this oil light.

Instead, what they do is show you a message that reads, “ Engine oil due for change.” This is on the info display of the Ford cars. The method for which one can reset oil for all the cars are the same.

Now, when you must have gotten the code from the mechanic or local car parts store, the issue can now be addressed squarely. Some people who use Ford trucks say that no code comes up when this diagnosis is run. They say the indicator light is ghosting. This isn’t unusual or unheard of.

This does not also mean that the problem has been solved. If you are done with the scan using the OBD tool and nothing comes up, you may want to do the next thing we would talk about.

NB: In case the warning light shows up, if you have a Ford truck, take it to the store immediately or you could get stranded. Do not clear codes! Never, ever do that!

Step Two – Check the Control Module of the Powertrain

So, you discovered that your car engine has begun to misfire or stall. It has started failing or is not economizing fuel as it is supposed to, there are two causes. First, it could be that you have a falling or bad engine control module (ECM).

Second, it could be that the powertrain control module is problematic. The PCM is the major computer for every drivability function and engine performance issues. It usually receives information that was taken from the sensors in various parts of the engine.

PCM uses the information to tune and calculate the spark of the engine and gas for maximal fuel efficiency and engine power. When you are checking out your PCM, you could check if there is an issue with connectors and wiring.

Wirings of the PCM must be insulated fully without any breaks at all. The connectors must be exceptionally clean without connector blades or any bent pins. You can also check if water has damaged anything. if there is water in the PCM, it could lead to short circuiting. It can also begin a process that leads to irreversible corrosion.

Vibrations and thermal stress could also be something that will cause problems. They form microcracks inside the circuit boards. Luckily, this can be repaired. If your PCM is damaged to the point where it cannot be fixed, it is then vital that you change it totally and that would lead us to step three.

Step Three – Replacing the PCM

Doing away with a PCM and putting a new one in its place is simple. It is just like exchanging one box for another. The main problem in changing PCM is usually accessibility of PCM. Accessibility is a huge challenge on some cars.

This is because your PCM is usually beneath many other components that are located inside instrument panel, console, or weather control system. Some may even be found under the car seat and would need you to remove the car seat.

Should you want to do it yourself, you can go through the following steps to replacing PCM.

Before we delve into how to do the replacement, make sure that you have checked thoroughly and have confirmed that the PCM needs changing. PCM is not like a tire that you can change anytime you want. It is quite expensive, and it is a complex component.

The tools needed in changing the PCM are sockets, wrenches, and a screwdriver .

First step – Disconnection of the Battery

Go to the bonnet and detach the negative wire of the battery, usually the black wire from the battery’s terminal.

Two – Locating PCM

When the above mentioned is done, you can search for your PCM, copy out the numbers which are written on it.

Three – Check Up the Number on the PCM

Research on those numbers in modules which are based on your car’s model, year of manufacture, components of the drive train, and engine. If you go to any car parts store, they will request for the number you copied out from the PCM. This is to make sure that the one you are buying is a good fit for the Ford truck.

Four – Installation of Your New Module

When you must have bought your new module, which is based on the number written on PCM, do not be in a hurry to install. You have to juxtapose it with the old module. The mounting locations and connectors have to match.

Some places would not even accept old modules as return items if it has ever been plugged into a car before. You can as well do any updates to flash that you want before you can finally install your new module.

Detach your old module by unclipping it. Pull the module out gently then you can install the one you just got in place of the old.

Five – Reconnecting Your Battery

When you are done with the installation, you can then connect the battery back. You can now start your car or truck.

If changing the PCM brings an end to your issues, then you are good to go. But if you start your vehicle and the yellow light comes on again, go ahead to the next step.

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Step Four – Check ETB (Electronic Throttle Body)

Check Electronic Throttle Body (ETB) and Throttle Position Sensor (TPS). It may be that they are dirty and need thorough cleaning or that they are open. To do this, you have to first find them. If the car in question is an F-series, you will find it just behind your air box.

You can pull away the snorkel of the throttle’s air intake. Take out one of its bolts. Then use air to blow away the dirt that has accumulated in that area. Blow this way so it does not settle or enter the engine, then release MAF sensor. This is attached to the housing of the throttle’s air box.

Do pull out all four bolts which are pinning down the airbox. As soon as the airbox has been removed, you can see your ETB. You can buy a small seafoam can at any local store that deals on parts. Use it to clean the body of your throttle even without detaching it.

Should the challenge be there still, you can check out inlet hose. It could be that the hose is cracked and is leaking. If it is not cracked or leaking, then proceed to step five.

Step Five – Replacing Transmission Fluid

This method is a huge guess but then you can try it anyway. It could work out. It has worked for some people. You just have to ensure that you are making use of the transmission fluid that is recommended for your car. You could find this recommendation in the pages of your users’ manual.  

Follow the steps below to change the transmission fluid. You will also need the following materials to effectively do that: a ratchet, large pan, funnel, transmission filter, six quarts Mercon transmission fluid.

Before you start this, or any other do it yourself work, you must take protective measures. This could be in form of wearing protective gears, switching off your engine, disconnecting battery, parking your car in a safe and flat terrain.

First Step – Check Out Your Transmission Fluid

Before you set out to flush the incumbent fluid, it is vital that you check the fluid. If you have one hundred thousand miles on the fluid, then change it.

Second Step – Drain Transmission Fluid

Place the large container or pan under the car where you can find transmission pan. The pan would catch fluid when you unfasten bolts attached to transmission pan. Don’t remove pan till all the fluid are out.

Third Step – Filter Removal

It is easy to get the filter out if you try shimmying down simultaneously. Remove the ring under filter. And when you are doing so, ensure that you do not make contact with the main control which has a sensitive bore. It is best you make use of a small screwdriver so that no damage is done to the sensitive parts.

Fourth Step – Clean Out the Pan

As soon as your pan is removed, wipe it off, this is to clean any dirt that may have built up on it as time passed.

Fifth Step – Install A New Filter

When you are done cleaning the pan, you can now place your new filter and bolt your sparkling as carefully as possible.

Sixth Step – Pour in Your New Fluid

Before you pour in the fluid, open your car hood and pull out the fluid dipstick. Using the funnel, pour in five to six quarts of your new fluid. Before you test your new fluid, you need to bring back the temperature of your transmission to one hundred and fifty degrees. This is the optimal operating temperature.

You can make this happen by allowing your truck to keep running till your engine is totally warmed up. Make sure you check out the fluid when you must have run the engine or driven it about for some time.

Step Six – Cleaning the ETB

ETB of any car with high mileage could be very dirty and needs proper cleaning. There are many other things that a dirty ETB can cause. They include engine stalling, rough idle, a gas pedal that is sticky, and a car that is moving at a snail’s pace.

The last is probably why we are here. For you to clean up throttle body, you have to take the following steps.

First, you have to pull out the duct of the air intake then pull one of the arms of the lever. When this is done, the plate of the throttle opens up. You can spray the cleaner you bought right inside. You can clean up the gunk using a rag. Replace the duct of the air intake.

When you are doing this, attention must be paid to the opening plate of the throttle. You must ensure that what you push is one of the arms of the lever. Not the plate of the throttle itself.  The computer of the car totally controls ETB.

Video: What does the wrench light mean on a Ford?

Introduction: This video explains what the wrench light means on a Ford vehicle

There is also a motor that is located right inside your throttle. It is responsible for the opening and closing of the plate.

Should you directly use your hand to push your throttle plate, the computer of the car will be confused as to where the correct throttle position should be. This will cause another car issue in addition to the one you are trying to fix. In fact, things would even become worse than that.

And in such situation, you will have to use the scan tool for resetting the engine. You can also use the relearn idle procedure. This is necessary if the engine will get back to the normal speed. If that does not happen, you will be stuck with a snail instead of your plush Ford vehicle.

So, here is another way of opening throttle plate without touching it. Get a friend to be on the driver’s seat. Let him turn your car key at the ignition without actually starting the car. He will step on the gas pedal till it reaches the end. As soon as that is done, the plate of the throttle is open.

You can improvise if you’re all by yourself by placing something very heavy on top of your gas pedal. Be sure whatever you are placing is heavy enough, so the throttle plate does not open when you are working. All your efforts will be wasted if that happens.

The plates have specific cleaners that are made for them. When you are buying one, make sure you do not mistake them for carburetor cleaner or brake cleaner. The brake cleaner can be one hell of a powerful solvent. It is so strong it can damage seals, rubbers, sensors, and coatings that are on the throttle walls.

Most people use the carburetor cleaner because it works. But it is nowhere as good as the one specifically made for your throttle. This one will even add a lubricating layer on your throttle so it will be hard for future dirt to stick onto.

Wondering why the throttle gets this dirty? Well wonder no more. It is not just atmospheric air that passes through the throttle. Vapor that comes from blowby and crankcase also pass through. To get this, you will have to understand how PCV system works.

PCV stands for positive crankcase ventilation. It is a container for all crankshafts which are beneath cylinders. Motor oil is what greases the moving parts that are inside of crankcase. This crankcase must be aerated, else, excess pressure will build up in the crankcase.

This will lead to the seal breaking and the oil leaking. And, you know this is not good news for any automobile. This is why crankcase should be aerated. But this cannot be done by atmospheric air because of environmental pollution.

Here, then, is where the use of the PCV is seen. Air from your crankcase goes to the engine, then fresh air which is atmospheric air is sent to your crankcase from another pipe attached to it.

As the car ages and gets more accumulation on the mileage, that vapor inside the throttle begins to acquire gunk and dirt. Again, oil rings, piston, and rings become worn out and can no longer hold the cylinders tight.

This will allow gas that has been burned to get off and move to your crankcase. This will only make more vapor. More vapor, which carries a lot of dirt, will make your throttle dirtier in less time.

When you clean the body of your throttle, idle problems such as the car moving very slowly may be solved. Remember, if the vehicle makes use of an ETB, never ever push or touch it using your hand.

What you can do is this, get someone to press down your gas pedal when your engine is on. You can then proceed to cleaning the body of the throttle.

We sure have come a long way in what you could do if your wrench light is showing. Before we wrap up, some people report that they were slow in acting when the indicator light came on. As a result, the car could not come on at all.

There are some cases where the light may be coming on and going off periodically. The best thing to do is to promptly get the car by any means to your mechanic’s workshop or the local store that deals on car parts.

But how? Try this: remove your car key from the ignition and open the door of your car, the driver’s side precisely. Close the door then once again you can try starting the car. Many people have tried this, and it worked. It resets your car system so you can at least get to a mechanic.

When it does come on, do not relax, get the car to the mechanic immediately.

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