Dashboard warning lights explained

Vehicle warning lights could be alerting you to a serious problem and if you ignore these signs you could cause excessive damage to your vehicle. These warning lights are usually an indication that you need some vehicle maintenance or a car service.

Some warning lights are more serious than others, and the colour of the light usually signifies how urgent the problem is. Not surprisingly, red warning signs are often the most serious and should be dealt with almost immediately, as this can indicate a safety issue or serious mechanical problem. The yellow warning signs usually indicate that a car service or vehicle maintenance is needed. However, if a yellow warning light flashes, it should be attended to immediately. Lastly green and blue dashboard lights usually simply let the driver know that a system is active and working.

Some symbols on your car’s dashboard are more obvious than others, so below we explain the meaning behind the most common warning lights. It’s important to consult your owner’s manual for an explanation, too.

Red warning lights: Serious and should be looked at asap

Check engine light:

This light warns of any engine-related issues, and can include something as small as a loose cap or something more important like a misfire.

Temperature warning light:

Usually looks like a thermometer with wavy lines underneath it. This light is a serious warning, as it indicates your engine is overheating and there is a cooling problem.

Oil warning light:

This indicates low oil pressure, which means there is not enough oil in your engine to lubricate all moving parts. Generally if this light comes on you should turn your engine off to prevent damage from occurring. The brake warning light could easily be one of the most important warning lights that should be looked at right away, as it indicates something is wrong with your brakes or braking system, and could cause you to have trouble stopping your vehicle. (Read more: How can I tell if my car’s brakes need replacing?)

Battery charging light:

This light indicates something is wrong with your charging system and your battery could be in critically low condition. It’s important to get your battery checked.

Orange warning lights: Car maintenance

Traction control warning light:

This light indicates that traction control is no longer working and has been deactivated. Traction control can be turned off by the driver. If it stays off and won’t turn back on, it should then be looked at, as this could cause you to lose control of your vehicle in slippery conditions.

Tyre pressure warning light:

Not all vehicles have this warning light, mostly newer vehicles have this warning symbol. The tyre marked symbol indicates that not all tyres are at the same pressure or at the minimum requirements of tyre pressure. (Read more: How to make your tyres last longer).

ABS (anti-lock braking system) warning light:

If this light appears on your dashboard, itindicates that your anti-skid braking system has failed and you should brake cautiously until the problem has been attended to.

Fog light warning symbol:

Some people may find it hard to believe that this should be a warning light, however it’s important to only drive with your fog lights on when you are driving through fog. This is because the rear fog lights can be mistaken as brake lights and could confuse other road users.

Green and blue lights: Not problematic

Cruise control light:

This light is indicated as a small speedometer with an arrow, to indicate that cruise control is activated at a permanent speed, until the driver disables it.

Auto engine start light:

This light looks like a shoe that has been tilted at a 45 degree angle, and indicates the engine will auto start again once you take your foot off the brake or clutch.

Blue headlamp symbol:

This indicates that your high-beam headlights are on. It’s important to turn these lights off when oncoming traffic is passing as your headlamps reduce thei visibility.

The best way to avoid problems with your vehicle is to ensure your car services and vehicle maintenance are up to date. With MotorHappy, it’s easy to budget for your car care, thanks to our comprehensive Service Plan and Maintenance Plan offerings. Click here to get a quote today.

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