Dash Warning Lights And What They Mean

Because of the new auto technologies developed by car manufacturers, most vehicles today come with a cluster of symbols illuminated by lights on the dashboard. It is important for the driver to understand what each symbol represents and what it means when light flashes from a certain symbol. The indications given on the dashboard are the main way in which the vehicle communicates with its driver. They inform the driver of a certain problem he should attend to, for example, low fuel or an empty tank.
 
Understanding Dashboard Warning Lights

First, every driver should know that different car manufacturers will use different symbols and so you should refer to your vehicle manufacturer’s manual to know what each symbol indicates. This will enable you to act accordingly whenever you see a warning light on your dashboard.

As for the warning light color, red indicates a critical condition and thus you should stop the car immediately and attend to whatever the problem or part of the car indicated. Orange on the other hand, indicates that a problem has been detected but you need not stop immediately. You may still have some mileage allowance to drive to the garage. This has some exceptions though, depending on the problem at hand.

Take the Airbag light for instance; when it comes on, it indicates that there is a problem with the airbag system. Although it may be okay to drive the car in this condition, should an accident occur, the airbags would not deploy appropriately thus posing a risk of fatality.
 
 Common Dashboard Warning Lights
  1. ABS warning light

    Immediately a driver starts his/her car, the Anti-lock Brake System light will come on but it goes off after a few seconds.

    If it comes and stays on, then it is a message to the driver that he may have normal braking; but should there be an emergency, an abrupt stop could lead to the wheels locking and thus the driver would not be able to steer clear of any impending danger.

    The ABS light could be indicative of:
     
    1. Low brake fluid level
    2. Faulty ABS
    3. Stuck brake caliper
       
  2.  Brake system alert

    This symbolizes a problem with the braking system. It could be activated by:
     
    1. Driving with the hand brake on
    2. Low brake fluid level
    3. Faulty or worn out brakes
    4. ABS problem
       
  3. Tyre pressure monitor

    When this light comes on, you should be aware that there is:

    Some vehicle models will allow you to manually reset the TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) warning light; but for other models, you have to seek the services of a professional.
     
    1. A tyre with low pressure
    2. A sensor malfunction
       
  4. Battery warning

    This light will come on if there is a malfunction in your battery charging system and that the voltage level is lower than normal. The problem could very likely lie in the:

    Although it may be okay to drive with this light on, you should head for servicing as soon as you can because failure to do so could end up with you being stranded in the middle of the road, owing to your car having stopped working. Just so you can get some reasonable amount of mileage to your mechanic, make sure you switch off any unnecessary electrical devices including the radio, heater and defroster.
     
    1. Alternator belt
    2. Battery terminals
    3. Overall battery condition
       
  5. ESP fault

    This light indicates a problem with your vehicle’s electronic stability system. It could be that:
     
    1. The car is losing grip (faulty anti-skid)
    2. The electronic stability control system has been switched off
       
  6. Open doors indicator

    When you see this light on, know that either one of the car doors, the hood or the trunk is open. This light comes on just after the engine is started and the danger of ignoring it is that if the vehicle is left in this state overnight, then the battery runs the risk of getting drained.
     
  7. Temperature warning light

    This light indicates that either the coolant temperature or the transmission temperature is higher than normal. The problem could lie in:
    1. Engine coolant level
    2. Fan operation
    3. Transmission fluid level
    4. Radiator cap
    5. Coolant leaks
       
  8. Oil warning light

    This is among the lights that require the driver to stop the car and gives the issue immediate attention. If this light comes on, it indicates low oil pressure, resulting from low oil levels in the engine or a bad oil pump.

    While you may attend to the issue on your own if the problem is low oil levels, professional help should be sought if the light is still on even after you have topped off your oil levels. A bad oil pump will require the expertise of a professional.
     
  9. Check engine light

    Perhaps this should have been placed higher up this list owing to its importance. Should this light come on, then the attention required may be:
     
    1. Oxygen sensor needs replacing
    2. Catalytic converter needs replacing
    3. Loose, damaged or missing gas cap
    4. Mass airflow sensor needs replacing
    5. Spark plugs or plug wires needs replacing
       
    Normally, this always requires professional assessment and so you ought to take your car for servicing as soon as you can.
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