Car dashboard lights meanings
Friday 19th February 2021
Most modern vehicles are fitted with multiple electronics and sensors which monitor how your vehicle is behaving. Spotted a sign on your dashboard and you’re unsure what it means? Our helpful guide to car warning lights has you covered.
Car dashboard symbols and their meanings
Firstly, it’s important to understand what the difference in colours on dashboard lights means for your vehicle, and generally there are main areas:
- Green warning lights – this indicates that your system is working correctly, or your vehicle is currently in use.
- Amber warning light – this indicates that something is not working as it should be. This is something to investigate as soon as possible, and advises you to take extra care.
- Red warning light – this indicates that there is a serious, and potentially dangerous, problem. As soon as a red dashboard light appears, stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so.
Brake warning light
This typically indicates that the hand brake, or parking brake, is applied – however, if this light remains on after you’ve fully released the parking brake, it could indicate that your brake fluid level is low. Once this light appears, it’s best to stop driving as soon as you can – and book yourself in at your local garage to allow the professionals to check over your brake system.
Airbag warning light
If this light appears on your dashboard, this means that at least one element of the airbag safety system is not working correctly. This means that, if an accident were to happen, the air bag may not be released in a crash – so it’s important to have this checked out immediately.
Engine management light
Also known as the ECU warning light, this will likely be accompanied with signs that your engine is not working properly, such as lack of power as you apply the accelerator. It’s important to have this checked as soon as possible, as continuing to drive on this would risk causing further damage to the engine.
Power steering warning light
This dashboard light indicates that there a problem with the power steering. Stop as soon as you can, and try and turn the vehicle off for 30 seconds, and then restart. If the light remains on the dashboard, it’s important to go and get this checked out as soon as possible.
Exhaust particulate filter warning lightDPF warning light
DPF warning light
If you have a diesel vehicle, one of these lights will appear if there is a problem with your exhaust particulate filter. This could indicate that the filter has been blocked with soot, which can cause damage to your car – so you should get this checked out as soon as you can. Learn more about if you need a new exhaust today.
Engine temperature warning light
This is also known as the coolant temperature warning light, and will appear when the engine is overheating. When this light appears, you should stop as soon as you can, and wait until the engine has cooled down before checking the gauge on the coolant tank under the bonnet. This could indicate a leak, so it’s wise to check for a leak while you’re under there – but if everything looks as it should, and the light switches off after topping up your engine coolant, you should be able to continue your journey.
However, if the light reappears, you will need to take your vehicle to be checked over by a professional.
Coolant levels warning light
This car dashboard light indicates that coolant levels are running low, and serves as a reminder to top these up. You can continue driving when this light appears, but it’s advised to avoid long journeys without sufficient coolant, and you should try and top this up as soon as possible.
Engine oil warning light
This indicates your engine oil level is low, or that the oil temperature of the vehicle has become too high. If this light appears, you should stop as soon as possible. Take a look under the vehicle for any obvious leaks – if the light does not disappear after topping up your engine oil, you may have to call for breakdown cover.
Low tyre pressure warning light
Tyre pressure monitoring systems are fitted in most modern vehicles to indicate to the driver that their tyre pressure is low, and needs inflating. You can continue to drive when this light appears, but with caution – and you should aim to top up the air of your tyres are the next available opportunity. Learn more about what your tyre pressure should be now.
Battery warning light
If this car warning light appears as you are driving, this suggests that your battery is not charging. Your vehicle will run as normal until the battery is dead, but then it will stop working completely – so it’s important to get your vehicle to the garage as soon as possible. If you do run out of charge, you can jump start your battery, or call for breakdown cover.
Anti-lock brake system (ABS) warning light
If this light appears on the dashboard on its own, you should be able to drive normally and have unassisted braking – but take extra care and get it checked as soon as you can. However, if this appears with the brake warning light, this could indicate the brake system is failing – meaning you should stop as soon as you can, and request breakdown cover.
Electronic stability problem (ESP) system light
This dashboard light indicates a problem with traction control, which is common on slippery surfaces, and it will likely appear as a flashing light. However, if this light stays on, this means your ESP system is not working correctly. Try stopping and restarting the engine, but if the light remains on, you will need to get this checked at a garage.
Brake pad warning light
If this car warning light appears, this suggests that you brake pads are too thin. This allows you time to get these changed, and you should replace these as soon as possible. Find out more about how to tell if you need new brakes.
For any of the above dashboard warning lights, your local Formula One Autocentre can help. Get in touch with a member of our experts today, and book yourself in for a comprehensive check. Alternatively, an interim short service would ensure your vehicle is working correctly against vehicle manufacturer guidelines.