What do those warning lights really mean?

Blog post posted on 20/04/23 |

Do you know what the warning lights on your car’s dashboard mean?

There are several of them, and just one could strike you in the pocket.

When you start your car’s engine, the computer runs a quick check on the system to make sure everything is running as it should.Dashboard warning lights are displayed in different colours, which usually shows how serious the problem is. Blue and green warning lights are usually the least urgent, and amber and red warning lights are more serious.

A survey by ATS Euromaster found that millions of drivers put themselves in danger of paying up to £7,500 in penalties and repairs by disobeying warning signals on their vehicles. The leading road safety in the UK, IAM RoadSmart, has some useful information on what the warning lights mean.

Check engine lightEngine Manangment

If the engine light comes on you should get it checked as soon as you can, as by continuing to drive you risk causing further, potentially irreparable damage to your engine.

Brakepad lightBrake Warning

When the brake pad warning light is on, this means that the sensor in the brakes has detected that the pads are too thin. Thin brake pads can be extremely dangerous to drive on and can leave your car struggling to stop when you press on the brakes, which is why this light should never be ignored.

Airbag lightAir Bag warning

When you start your car, the airbag warning light will turn on for a few seconds and should turn off automatically if everything is okay. If the light stays on, the computer has detected an issue. When this light is on, that means your airbags are deactivated. It means they will not deploy properly if you are involved in a crash.

Engine TempEngine Temperature Warning

If this light flashes it means that your car’s cooling system is not working properly, and your engine is overheating.  While the car is still drivable, you run the risk of causing considerable damage to the engine by letting it run too hot. As mentioned earlier, if the light comes on, you should pull over in a safe place as soon as possible.

oil lightOil Pressure

Also known as the low engine oil or low oil pressure light. The oil warning light comes on when either the oil temperature gets too high, or the oil level or pressure is too low. If the oil is not lubricating the engine effectively, it could lead to expensive or even irreparable engine damage, so it’s important to act quickly.

Remember, if your dashboard symbols are illuminated, then your car is trying to tell you something, so don't ignore it.

Richard Gladman, Chief Examiner at IAM RoadSmart, said:

"If a red light illuminates on the dashboard, your car is telling you it has a problem, stop in a safe place and get the problem investigated. If you have an amber warning light, check your manual, you have a problem that needs investigating, but it is safe to continue home. Do not leave the problem for another day, get a diagnostic check done at your local garage and rectify the issue sooner rather than later.”