What do car dashboard warning lights mean?


Financial Guidance

Whether you’re a first-time driver or have been driving for years, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of warning lights on your dashboard. But it’s important that you know what each warning light means and how you should react to them, so we’re going to take you through the most important ones.

Brake system warning light

Brake Warning Light

The braking system is one of the most important features on your car. This warning light will come on when the handbrake is on but if you see it light up at any other time, there might be something wrong with the braking system.

In this situation, check the brake fluid level and if the light remains on, take your vehicle to a garage.

ABS warning light

ABS Logo

The warning light for ABS or anti-lock braking should turn on when you switch the ignition on. If it comes on while you’re driving there may be a problem with the system and you should check this out as soon as possible. Depending on your car, you might still be able to brake without ABS but this could be dangerous so don’t risk it.

If the braking system and ABS warnings lights turn on while you’re driving, stop the car as soon as it’s safe to do so. Use the brakes with care and seek professional assistance.

Engine warning light

An engine warning light showing up on your dashboard while the engine is running could be a sign that something’s wrong with the engine management system. The car will often drive differently when this happens – one tell-tale sign is that it will lose some of its power as it’s in ‘safe’ mode.

As a precaution, you should take your car to a professional as an engine warning light can flag up a number of underlying problems.

Battery charge warning light

Battery Icon

As with a number of others, the battery charge light can come on when the ignition is switched on and turn off as soon as you start the engine. If the light doesn’t come at all, or comes on while you’re driving then your battery is not being charged and there may be something faulty with the charging system.

This could lead to a number of problems, so switch off the engine and get help.

Oil pressure warning light

Oil Light

If this light comes on after you’ve switched the engine on or while you’re driving, you need to stop the car in a safe place and check the engine oil level. Seek help if the warning light is still showing even though the oil level is correct.

Coolant warning light

Your car can overheat without any coolant, so if this warning light comes up on your dashboard your levels could be running low. Check the gauge on the side of the coolant tank under your bonnet and top up if you need to.

If the temperature gauge is well into the red, your engine could be overheating so get it seen to as soon as you can.

Tyre pressure warning light

Depending on the make or model of your car, it could come with a tyre pressure monitoring system. If so look out for the tyre pressure warning light as it could show that your tyre pressures are low or – even worse – that you have a puncture. When it’s next safe to do so get out of your car and check your tyres.

Airbag warning light

Airbag Warning

Get your car seen to if your airbag warning light starts to flash. A faulty airbag can put you and your passengers in danger by either not going off in a crash or going off unexpectedly.

EPAS warning light

Most new cars now have power steering and the EPAS warning light will turn on when there’s something wrong with yours. Heavy steering on your car is another sign that the power steering system is failing. Check your car out as soon as possible.

DPF warning light

Drive a diesel car? Most are now fitted with a diesel particulate filer (DPF) which removes the soot from the exhaust gases to reduce emissions. If you see this warning light, you could not only be releasing more fumes as a result but could be damaging your engine as well.

Head to a garage straightaway as the filer may be blocked and need replacing.

Fuel filter water trap

Another warning light only featured on diesel cars is the fuel filter water trap. This light will illuminate if there’s water detected in the fuel filter and warns that the amount of gathering water has reached a certain level.

So there you have it – the meanings behind some of the most important warning lights on your dashboard. These should come in handy in the future but let’s face it, all of the knowledge in the world won’t keep you from breaking down if your car is on its last legs. That’s why it may be worth looking into getting breakdown cover (if you haven’t already) so that you’re covered for these situations.

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