Common warning lights and their meaning

Common warning lights and their meaning

In these days of fast-moving technology, our car dashboards have changed out of all recognition from those of, say, a scant thirty years ago. Long gone are the simple and basic oil pressure and battery voltage gauges; today we have touchscreens, but there is one area that has not changed all that much and that is the instrument binnacle warning lights.

The only thing that has really changed is the sheer number of them and we ignore them at our peril. When starting a car all the warning lights come on, essentially indicating that all systems are go. They extinguish almost immediately which confirms there are no issues: Until they come on again.

Modern Complexity

We have lost the automotive skills that were once required of car owners. Our fathers may well have known how to cope with an over-heating engine or a drop in oil pressure, but we don’t, because modern cars may well be more reliable but they are also much more complex. In the 21st Century we prefer to leave car maintenance to the professionals at our local car servicing garage.

That loss of practical skills is combined with a basic lack of interest in what goes on under the bodywork meaning that when a warning light comes on we may well be at a loss, unable to identify some of the most common car dashboard warning lights when they illuminate. It’s not unknown for drivers to ignore them and that’s when a small problem can become a large problem very quickly and could mean the difference between a small or huge garage bill.

Get To Know What The Lights Mean

How many drivers could, for example, immediately recognise the symbol or pictogram associated with the diesel particulate filter or the ABS system and respond instantly by heading to the local garage? Exactly.

All new vehicles are sold with a handbook. It is usually found in the glove box but over time may disappear into a drawer or cupboard largely unread and never to be seen again. The handbook concerns the care of the car and includes all the information needed about warning lights, what they mean, and what the owner should do. It should be sold with the car but failing that order a new one or download a digital copy to a smartphone.

Below is a list of commonly featured warnings. It’s not comprehensive because, for example, a budget or older model will not have quite the same number of alerts as the very latest premium motor. These examples though are mostly common to all modern vehicles. The image shows some but by no means all that may feature:

Car warning lights

Car warning lights

Issue with braking system.
Low fuel.
Coolant issue.
Tyre pressure issue.
Airbag issue.
Anti-lock braking system issue.
Oil warning light.
Battery charge warning.
Engine warning light.
Seatbelt warning.
Diesel particulate filter issue (not shown here).

As can be seen, the symbols show what they signify: Oil being an obvious example. Different car makers may have slightly different pictograms but broadly speaking they are designed to be clear. If in doubt, consult the handbook without delay.

For safety’s sake, always stop as soon as possible allowing for traffic conditions. If the oil light shows then the level is at a critical stage and it may not be safe to continue without checking, before proceeding directly to a service centre.

If It’s On, It’s Urgent

Dashboard Warning lights must always be treated as a matter of urgency and leaving it until later is a recipe for disaster. Safety is paramount on our busy highways and byways. A regular servicing regime will help to ensure that those lights only come on when they should. Nevertheless, just in case, study that handbook and get to know what the symbols indicate and deal with the problems as soon as they arise.

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