How To Interpret Your Car's Warning Lights

Every vehicle comes with a dashboard equipped with ample warning signals to let the driver know if there’s a problem with the vehicle. The problem is that you may not always understand what it means. If you notice an indicator light go off on your vehicle dashboard, do not ignore it. If you’re not sure what to do or what it means, here’s a quick list of how to interpret your car’s warning lights.

  • Read the manual. Get to know your vehicle and take the time to read the manual. Most people leave the manual in the glove compartment and never take it out unless there’s a problem. Make sure the manual is always inside the vehicle at all times so you can easy access information if you need it. If you have lost the manual of the car, you can request another copy from the dealer, or check online at the car’s website to get some details.
  • Vehicle engine warning light. This indicator lights up as soon as you turn on the engine but should immediately turn off after a few seconds. If the light remains on, turn off your engine immediately. If you are driving and you notice that it starts flashing or blinking, you need to slow down right away. If it remains a steady light, drive slowly to the nearest service station and get your vehicle checked. If the indicator light turns red or doesn’t stop blinking, turn off the engine and pull over. You may need to get the vehicle towed. If you continue to operate the vehicle with the warning light on, you may cause severe damage to the car.
  • Temperature warning light. If your indicator lights up, pay attention immediately. You need to pull over turn off the engine right away. Attempting to run your engine when your car is overheating will cause severe damage to your car. You may not have enough coolant or there is a problem with the cooling fan. Do not attempt to open the radiator cap until your engine has cooled or it may cause you harm. Take your car to a qualified mechanic immediately to have this problem checked.
  • Car door open. You’ll see a small drawing of the vehicle with doors open. If this is on, check all four doors and the trunk of the car. Driving around with improperly closed doors is a safety hazard. In some vehicles, you’ll hear a beeping sound until you close the correct door properly.
  • Oil pressure light. If you need to find the oil pressure indicator light, it will usually appear like a genie’s lamp. If the indicator warning light is on, turn off your engine right away. Go and check your oil levels.
  • Battery warning light. This indicator automatically lights up when you start the engine and should turn off a few seconds after. If it stays lit and you cannot start the vehicle, turn off your engine. You may need to change the battery. You may also need to check the connection terminals.
  • Brake warning light. Usually, if you see the brake warning light illuminated, this means you are driving around with your hand break up. If this is the case, release the hand break immediately. If the indicator light doesn’t turn off, you may not have enough brake fluid. Avoid using the vehicle until you have it checked by a mechanic.
  • ABS warning light. This indicator should light up when you start your engine. However, it should automatically turn off immediately. If it remains on, you need to tell your mechanic.

Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, you may have other indicator lights. Check the manual for a full explanation of the symbols. Have your vehicle checked regularly to avoid any system problems. If your indicator lights turn on but there is no problem with the vehicle, your electrical system may be at fault. Let a qualified mechanic make the diagnosis for you. The important thing is to not ignore the warnings.


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