Decoding your dashboard
As vehicles become more advanced, so have their dashboard displays. With a variety of symbols and warning lights, your vehicle is like an advanced computer on wheels with the ability to tell you when something is wrong.
Mission control for your vehicle, the instrument cluster has a wealth of knowledge – if you know what to look for. While some warning lights are universally known, there are many new ones in use that you may not be familiar with.
Some warning lights require immediate attention while others can wait. Do you know the difference? Use this handy guide to learn what your car is trying to tell you.
The color of a warning light can give a clue to the severity of the issue. A red light typically indicates a critical problem that could require immediate attention. A yellow or orange light signals that something may need to be repaired or serviced soon. A blue or green light can show that a certain system is in operation.
There are well over 100 different dashboard warning lights in use by car manufacturers. While there are lights for every conceivable system and situation, the lights can be broken down into five broad categories: engine, brakes, safety, lights and stability & traction control. Also listed are some lights that are specifically for electric/hybrid vehicles. Check out some of the most common lights from each category.
Please note that every vehicle is different and may not have the same warning lights that are shown below. For specific information about the warning lights on your vehicle, consult your owner’s manual.
Check Engine Light
If this light remains on after you start the engine, it can indicate an issue with your engine. Check out this article for tips on what to do if this light is illuminated.
If this lights up, it indicates a malfunction. Stop the vehicle and check the oil level.
Engine Coolant Temperature
This comes on if the engine coolant temperature becomes too high. Read this article for tips on avoiding engine overheating.
If this comes on, it indicates a problem with your battery. Get your vehicle checked out before it leaves you stranded.
Comes on if there is a problem with the brakes or if the brake fluid is low. Can also illuminate if you drive with the parking brake engaged. These can appear together or as separate lights for the brake system and parking brake. For more information on what to do if your brake light comes on, read this article.
Anti-lock Braking System
This light illuminates if your ABS system malfunctions or will come on when the ABS is activated.
Lights up and chimes as a reminder to fasten your safety belt.
Should come on briefly when you start your car. If it doesn’t illuminate, flashes or stays on, there could be an issue that needs to be checked out.
Lights up if the ignition is on and one of the doors isn’t completely shut.
Comes on when the gas level is getting low.
Low Tire Pressure
Lights up if your tire pressure is low. Check the pressure in all tires when possible.
Lights up when left or right turn signal is activated.
Comes on when fog lights are turned on.
Illuminates when high beam lights are activated.
When parking lights are turned on, it will light up.
Daytime Running Lights
Comes on to indicate the daytime running lights are on.
Turns on when there is an exterior light that isn’t functioning.
Comes on when the hazard lights are engaged.
Stability & Traction Control
Lights up when the cruise control is in use.
Traction & Stability Control
Briefly illuminates upon start up.
Traction & Stability Control Off
Illuminates if you turn off the stability control.
Low Battery Warning
Illuminates when your electric vehicle needs to be charged.
Lights up when the battery is being charged.
Comes on when the vehicle is operating in electric vehicle mode.