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6 Common Issues About What Does The Wrench Light Mean on a Ford Vehicles

The wrench light lighting up on your Ford can be cause for concern. Not to be confused with other indicator lights, it should not be taken for granted when this light comes on.

When the wrench light comes on, it indicates a problem with the powertrain on your Ford.

The vehicle’s computer system may force the car into Fail-Safe or Limp Mode to protect the transmission from further damage.

As soon as this light comes on, you should take your vehicle to have the problem identified. We are going to explore all the problems that this indicator light can stand for.

Additionally, we will explain the differences between this light and the other similar indicator lights.


What Does The Wrench Light Means on a Ford

The wrench light is Ford’s unique system for indicating a powertrain failure. When the vehicle’s computer detects a problem with the powertrain or 4-wheel drive system, it will illuminate this light.

Once this light comes on, it is highly recommended that you have your vehicle serviced by your nearest authorized dealer or mechanic as soon as possible.

Ignoring the light can lead to costly damage to your vehicle’s transmission, engine, or drivetrain.

If you notice changes in vehicle performance, such as power loss or shaking, consider getting towed to the dealership instead of driving.

Your vehicle may enter Fail-Safe Mode or limp mode soon after the wrench light turns on.

This mode is designed to automatically limit the engine’s power and leaves you with just enough power to safely maneuver the vehicle off the road without causing further damage to its components.

Once you safely park the vehicle on the side of the road, you must not drive it again. Instead, get it towed to the nearest certified dealer or mechanic.

The light will generate fault codes that can be read to help identify the problem. Most of the time, the problems will be related to maintenance issues.

Why Does The Wrench Light Turn on?

The light can indicate several things. There can be low system low boost, voltage, irregular temperature variations, or faulty oil cooler.

01. Transmission Issues

Transmission issues are frequently behind the wrench light. Common indicators include the engine refusing to start, gears slipping, burning more fuel, leaking fuel, and noises coming from the engine.

Typically, the Engine Control Module and the Powertrain Control Module are what’s behind this.

The Powertrain Control Module receives information from all your engine’s sensors and is directly responsible for the vehicle’s efficient movement. It ensures your engine has optimal performance while consuming less fuel.

There could also be minor issues within your transmission, but the only way to find out is to go to a certified mechanic as soon as possible.

02. Throttle Issues

Throttle problems will also make the wrench light turn on. You will find that the light flickers every time you turn the vehicle on.

The throttle body may simply be dirty due to carbon buildup. The good news is that you can try to clean the debris from the throttle yourself before heading out to a mechanic. Just make sure you use a suitable cleaner.

03. Carburetor Issues

Carburetor issues will cause your vehicle to jolt or overheat. This problem can be anything from needing cleaning to needing the carburetor rebuilt.

04. Wiring Issue

Sometimes the problem is as simple as a loose or damaged wire. This will make the wrench light come on but will be the easiest repair to take care of.

05. Battery Issue

If your battery is low or dies, it can make the wrench light come on. The reason behind this is that the battery’s low power begins to affect the lighting system of the car, including the indicator lights.

06. Oil Change

While the wrench light is not the oil change light, it can still occasionally signal that it’s time for an oil change.

This is a quick and easy fix to test. If the light is out following the oil change, then you have found the problem.

What To Do When The Wrench Light on Ford Comes on

When the wrench light comes on, you may be very limited in the options you have. If your car has entered limp mode, you will be left with no choice but to exit traffic and pull off the road.

With the severely limited power of your vehicle, you will need to maneuver carefully around other traffic to get safely to the side of the road.

Once you are safely on the side of the road, there are several steps that you can take to diagnose the problem.

01. Use an OBD Reader

If you have an OBD reader, you can read the codes that are behind the light. If you do not own a reader, you may have the ability to go to a parts store to have your codes read for free, provided you can drive the vehicle there.

You can still read the codes even if the check engine light is off. Because the wrench light is throwing pending codes, you will need a high-quality OBD reader that is capable of reading these.

02. Self-Diagnose The Problem

Additionally, there are steps to take to self-diagnose the problem if you are comfortable doing this.

Just remember, the more you drive the car, the more likely it is that you can cause damage to its inner parts.

You will need to turn the vehicle off and then back on to see if you can first clear the wrench light error.

If the light is off when you restart the car, you can continue with your self-diagnosis.

You can attempt different things, like shifting into certain gears, to trigger the light.

Once you do get the light to come back on, you will want to repeat the action to confirm that what you did is the cause of the light coming on.

If it did involve shifting gears, you could be reasonably well-assured that you have a transmission problem.

03. Inspect and Clean The Throttle Body

In addition to obtaining your diagnostic trouble codes, you should inspect your electronic throttle body. This is especially true if your vehicle has a lot of miles on it.

Over time carbon builds up inside the electronic throttle body, affecting the movement of the throttle plate.

Additionally, the computer becomes confused when trying to find the correct throttle position. If this happens, the computer triggers the wrench light and initiates limp mode.

You will need to clean the electronic throttle body if it is dirty. Then, perform the idle relearn process.

04. Call a Tow Truck

If restarting the car does not clear the wrench light and your vehicle is stuck in limp mode, you will not have any other choice but to call for a tow truck.

With all acceleration and transmission functions reduced by limp mode, it will be nearly impossible for you to drive the vehicle to the mechanic if they are too far away.

Once the two truck hauls your vehicle to the mechanic, they can read the codes that your wrench light is creating. As professionals, they can quickly identify the problem and offer a resolution.

05. Check The Powertrain Control Module

The Powertrain Control Module is the main computer for many of your vehicle’s engine performance and drivability functions.

It processes information from the engine’s various sensors to calculate things like engine spark and fuel to provide maximum power and efficiency.

When your wrench light comes on, you should check this module for things like problems with the wiring and connectors.

Wires should be fully insulated with no breaks. Connectors need to be clean and have no bent pins. There should be no water damage.

06. Replace The Powertrain Control Module

If you do find damage to the Powertrain Control Module, you will need to replace it.

This is a simple process of just swapping out boxes. Ensure that you disconnect the battery before beginning to work on the module.

What Are The Risks of Ignoring The Wrench Light on a Ford?

Ignoring the wrench light on your Ford can be a very costly mistake. As this light can indicate problems with your engine or your transmission, ignoring it can allow problems to get worse.

You may find that you can drive with no problems for a while after your light turns on.

However, the light may be signaling that your throttle or transmission is failing, preventing you from accelerating or shifting.

It’s also possible that turning the vehicle off and turning it back on will clear the light. But note, this is a temporary fix. There is a problem, and the light will be back on.

Continuing to drive with the light on may cause further damage, and the computer will place the vehicle in limp mode.

At this point, you will be unable to accelerate and have lost all transmission functions. The only option you may have is to slowly maneuver your way to the side of the road.

At the end of the day, continuing to drive while your wrench light is on will only bring more problems.

Whatever your underlying issue is, it will only be made worse by continuing to drive and not having the problem addressed.

This can result in expensive repairs like a transmission replacement.

What To Do If Wrench Light on Ford Doesn’t Go Away Even After Resolving Existing Issues?

If your wrench light doesn’t go away after you have resolved all related problems, you may need to manually reset it.

In some cases, the error will not be clear on its own, and you may have to do it. Fortunately, this step is easy.

First, turn the car on without turning it over. Next, hold down both the gas and brake pedals until the wrench light goes out.

If this does not work, you may need to take your car into the shop to ensure that everything has been resolved.

There may still be a problem with the powertrain system that was not identified during the initial repairs.

Tips To Prevent Issues That Turn on The Wrench Light on a Ford

Routine maintenance is key to preventing your wrench light from turning on. If you do not take care of your vehicle, you will not be on top of the situations that can cause the light to turn on.

01. Maintain Your Battery

You will need to maintain your battery and its terminals. Replace your battery on time. This will prevent low power or a dead battery from triggering the wrench light.

02. Routine Oil Changes

Getting your oil changed routinely will also prevent any issues that may trigger the light. Pay attention to your maintenance schedule, and don’t miss any oil changes.

03. Keep Your Throttle Clean

Additionally, maintaining your electronic throttle body is also key to preventing your wrench light from turning on.

Routinely cleaning the carbon buildup from the throttle body will ensure that the computer does not send a signal to place the car in limp mode.

04. Routine Maintenance of The Transmission and Carburetor

Visiting your regular mechanic for routine maintenance of your transmission and carburetor will keep your car in excellent shape.

It will ensure that these parts are in their best working order and will identify problems long before the wrench light has the chance to come on.

Is The Wrench Light The Same as The Check Engine Light?

The wrench light and the check engine light are very similar as they both indicate a problem with your vehicle.

However, the check engine light can mean something simple, like it’s time for your routine oil change.

But on the other hand, the wrench light will always have more serious importance as it is related to the vehicle’s powertrain system.

The check engine light is standard for all cars, regardless of make and model.

Alternatively, the wrench light is part of Ford’s warning system. Both lights can illuminate at the same time or on their own.

The wrench light is specific to the throttle and transmission. The check engine light is vaster in what it applies to, covering the entire engine and exhaust system.

It deals with the combustion process and elimination of exhaust fumes.

What’s The Difference Between The Wrench Light and The Oil Change Light?

A few models and years of Ford vehicles have an oil change light that is very similar to the wrench light.

It features a wrench and an oil can. For this reason, many owners confuse the two lights and their meanings.

Again, the wrench light is indicative of a problem with the vehicle’s powertrain system. Alternatively, the oil change light is a reminder for the car owner to have their oil changed.

Most Fords now have an oil change light that simply says Change Oil, so it is less confusing.

Related Questions

01. What Problems Can Cause The Wrench Light To Turn on?

Several problems can make the wrench light turn on. These include low boost, low voltage, abnormal temperature differences between block and cylinder head, dirty electronic throttle body, bad oil cooler, and a problem with the powertrain sensor.

02. What Happens When The Vehicle Goes into Limp Mode?

Acceleration decreases to 5 to 10 mph in limp mode. Power is limited, and pressing the gas has no effect.

All transmission functions are turned off to preserve the transmission and prevent any further damage.

03. What If The Wrench Light Comes on While You Are Towing A Heavy Load?

If you are towing a heavy load or driving up a steep incline, the wrench light may be an indicator to warn you to ease off before you overheat your vehicle.

This may be one of the very few problems that will resolve itself without a mechanic’s assistance.

04. What’s The Difference Between The Powertrain and The Systems That Use The Check Engine Light?

The engine light is associated with the engine and the exhaust system. It specifically deals with the combustion process and the elimination of exhaust fumes.

The light illuminates when the exhaust fumes are not right, if the engine is firing incorrectly, or if a sensor is not working.

The wrench light is specifically associated with the transmission and other moving parts that are not related to combustion.


The wrench light is nothing to ignore. It can mean there are serious problems with the powertrain system of your Ford.

By not dealing with the situation immediately, you can place your vehicle at risk of having major transmission problems in the future.

The light should not be confused with the check engine light or the oil change light.

The check engine light refers specifically to the engine and combustion system of the vehicle, not the transmission and the other moving parts related to the powertrain system.

While the change oil light may look similar in some Ford models, the two lights are completely different.

The oil change light serves only as a reminder to have your routine oil change maintenance completed.

By keeping up with your routine car maintenance, you can avoid having problems with your wrench light coming on.

Servicing your transmission, carburetor, and throttle bottle regularly will keep them in top shape, preventing any serious problems in the future.