A Guide to Car Warning Lights and Indicators

You’ve probably seen the dashboard warning lights on the driver’s instrument cluster every time you start your vehicle. Although it’s for a brief moment, some of these warning lights do appear depending on the situation. Knowing what they mean can help you identify certain issues should they arise during your drive. In this three-part series, we cover 30 of the most popular dashboard and car warning lights and indicators that you might find in your car. For part one, we look at the most basic and important indicators on most vehicles today.

 

Brake warning indicator

Car warning lights and indicators

This usually comes on when your handbrake is in use. If it is not in use and still comes up during a drive, pull to the side safely. The light could mean one of a few things including a low brake fluid level, ABS problems, worn brake pads, or one or two brake lights have failed. 

Check engine light

Car warning lights and indicators

The check engine light is part of the car’s computer diagnostics system. It could mean an overheat, low oil pressure, loose gas cap, a mechanical issue or an issue that needs immediate attention. In this situation, have your car checked by a mechanic soonest possible.

Coolant temperature

Car warning lights and indicators

The coolant temperature warning light indicates an overheated engine due to several causes including a low coolant level, coolant system problems, or a possible leak in the system. In such an event, stop the vehicle at a safe area and open the bonnet to cool down the engine.

Battery problems

Car warning lights and indicators

The battery light indicator comes on to point towards a possible recharging system problem. This could mean a battery that fails to charge, or alternator issues. It is best to stop the car or drive to the closest mechanic soonest possible before the battery fails completely, and the car is rendered immobile. 

Oil pressure warning

If this light comes on during a drive, you will need to stop the vehicle safely as soon as possible. The light coming on is a sign of a defective oil pump or that your engine oil is low. 

Tire pressure warning

Car warning lights and indicators

For vehicles equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), this warning comes probably once a month when the tire pressure goes below the recommended limit. Just ensure that you have your tires checked when the warning appears as there could be a flat.

High beam indicator

Turn these on for the brightest lights on your car. Depending on the vehicle, this indicator may be accompanied with the letter ‘A’ or the word ‘Auto’ which turns the system off when there is an oncoming vehicle from a distance.

Front and rear fog lamps

Car warning lights and indicators

Often confused with the low beam indicator, the best way to tell them apart is with the wavy line to indicate light passing through a fog. The best way to tell apart the front and rear fog lamps is with the symbol’s lines. If the wavy lines is to the left of the symbol, it is the front fog lamp. If the wavy lines is on the right, it is the rear fog lamps.

Airbag indicator

This symbol may be illuminated with the words ‘Airbag’ or ‘SRS’ which stands for “supplemental restraint system”. If it comes on, it could indicate a problem with one of the many airbags in the vehicle. Get it checked at your nearest service center.

Vehicle stability control off indicator

While this system may come in various names including Electronic Stability Program (ESP), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and more, it shows that the system has been deactivated. What the system does is help the driver maintain control of the vehicle when a loss of control is detected. 

Watch out for part 2 of this article to know more about car warning lights and indicators!

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