15 Common Warning Lights On Your Car Dashboard And What They Mean

Try not to ignore these warnings, as some can be serious.

  • Have you ever wondered what all those little symbols on your car dashboard mean? You know, the ones that light up like a Christmas tree when you turn on the ignition.

  • Some of these symbols shouldn't be taken lightly, as they could be indicating an issue with your car. Here are the meanings behind these markers:

    • Note: Your car dashboard may be different and the symbols listed below may have altered designs and colours. Be sure to check your manual for more information.

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  • (A) WARNING SYMBOLS

    • Warning symbols are normally in red. They indicate a potential problem or safety issue that should be checked by a professional.

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  • 1. Engine temperature warning light

    • What it means: Your car's coolant is overheating.

      What you can do: Quickly pull over and let your car cool down or the heat can destroy your car's engine.

      The symbol also comes in blue which means the coolant temperature is below what is needed for optimum performance. It normally pops up when you start up your car in the morning and the symbol should disappear once the vehicle warms up.

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  • 2. Oil pressure warning light

    • What it means: If the engine oil pressure warning light is on, it may mean your engine has lost normal oil pressure.

      What you can do: It could be something as simple as being low on oil, or it could be an indication of serious engine problems. The trouble is, you don’t know whether the problem is serious or no big deal, so the best course of action is to pull over immediately, turn off your engine, and call for your mechanic.

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  • 3. Battery charge warning

    • What it means: Your car's battery juice is running low.

      What you can do: First thing you should do is turn off anything that draws power from the battery, except for the headlights if you are driving at night. This includes the air conditioning and heating system, the stereo, any interior lights, and any accessories such as heated seats or heated mirrors. Do not turn your car off until you get to somewhere safe, just in case it doesn't start again.

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  • 4. Brake warning light

    • What it means: It's likely that you left your handbrake on. But if the light is still lit when you are driving, it could mean your car is low on brake fluid or something more severe.

      What you can do: If the red brake light blinks, or comes on and off intermittently, and there is no change in the feel of the brake pedal, then have the vehicle properly diagnosed by a qualified repair shop as soon as possible.

      But if the light is permanently lit, the vehicle should be pulled to the side of the road and towed to a qualified repair shop.

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  • 5. Airbag indicator

    • What it means: There's something faulty with the airbags.

      What you can do: Take your vehicle to a qualified service centre or your dealer immediately to have the problem diagnosed. Remember the faulty Takata airbags?

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  • 6. Seatbelt indicator

    • What it means: You're not wearing your seatbelt.

      What you can do: This doesn't require a checkup from a professional but it's quite possibly the most important aspect of driving. Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes, yet millions do not buckle up on every trip. Safety first and put on your belt, buddy.

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  • (B) SAFETY SYMBOLS

    • These symbols might appear as different colours in different cars and they should be looked at.

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  • 1. Engine warning

    • What it means: If this is illuminated, it means there is an issue with your engine.

      What you can do: It may be down to a minor electrical issue, but it could also be something which if not checked straight away, could lead to further and more substantial damage. Bring your car to the mechanic when you can.

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  • 2. Traction control light

    • What it means: Your car is losing its grip.

      What you can do: Slow down and allow your vehicle to regain traction. The light should go out but if it stays on, there could be an underlying problem with the traction control system.

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  • 3. ABS indicator

    • What it means: There's something wrong with your car's Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).

      What you can do: If the warning light comes on while you are driving, it means the ABS is not working properly. Your brakes will still work, but the ABS might not engage if you need to make an emergency stop. If the light remains on, you need to have a mechanic diagnose the ABS light issue as soon as possible.

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  • 4. Tire pressure warning light

    • What it means: According to your tire pressure monitor system, at least one of your tires is running low on pressure.

      What you can do: Head to your closest petrol station and add air as necessary.

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  • 5. Glow plug indicator

    • What it means: If your car is running on diesel, this is the glow plug indicator. Due to the nature of diesel engines, they require some extra help when first starting up at a cold temperature. The glow plug is a heating element that is activated during startup when the temperature of the engine is too low.

      What you can do: Normally, the glow plug indicator light will come on only when the engine is cold. Typically, this light flashes only when an issue has been detected.The most common reason to replace glow plugs is age. Over time, after repeated warm-up cycles, the glow plugs age and are not able to produce any heat. Replacing your glow plugs should get rid of any issues.

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  • (C) COMMON SYMBOLS

    • The following are all related to your vehicle’s lighting system and routine needs. For instance, the need to fill your windshield washer fluid, or top up petrol.

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  • 1. High beam light indicator

    • What it means: The light is active only when the high beams are active and has been a standard in vehicles for decades.

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  • 2. Low windshield fluid indicator

    • What it means: You're low on windshield washer fluid. Spare a minute and top it off.

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  • 3. Low fuel inidicator

    • What it means: Your car needs fuel. Time for a trip to the petrol station.

      Fun fact: The symbol on the fuel gauge also has an arrow next to it - this indicates which side of the car has the gas cap. No more gas station three-point turns in rental cars ever again.

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  • 4. Service reminder

  • Remember to take some of these lights seriously as you may not know what will happen to your car the next moment if you decide to ignore it. When in doubt, always check with your mechanic or a professional. Drive safe, guys!

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