Magnum Autoclub

Swift Solutions for Your Convenience – Quick and Efficient Service with No Appointments Needed!

Warning Lights on the Dashboard: What Do They Mean?

Whether you have a modern car, with a digital dashboard, or an old-school car with a tachometer, gauges and needles, at one point in time, you might have interacted with the dreaded ‘check engine light’. You know, the orange/amber engine sign that usually brings with it a hefty repair bill, or, if you’re lucky, its just a loose fuse. Whatever the case, have you ever wondered just what exactly are you looking at when you go to start your car and the dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree? In this blog post, we’ll be taking a look at the different meanings of car warning lights, understand the car dashboard symbols and explain how to decode common car warning lights. This is everything you need to know about the dashboard warning lights. 

Dashboard Warning Lights

Here’s a quick disclaimer: don’t like the check engine light on your car? That might probably be down to a lousy maintenance job. By having your car maintained and checked by a service like Magnum Autoclub, you can ensure that warning lights never see the light of the day. Exceptional car care and maintenance will see your car running like a dream, and the only time you’ll get to see those lights will be during startup! Now let’s get back to the warning lights on the dashboard, starting off with the colours. 

Dashboard warning lights: understanding the colour scheme

Car dashboard lights are put there to inform the driver of any potential issue with the car or the engine. However, these lights also have to convey the severity of the issue; some issues can be quickly resolved, like plugging in a loose fuse, or some issues might require you to switch off the car and wait while AAA or roadside assistance comes up to help you tow your car to the nearest garage. These are usually denoted by colours, and here is a quick breakdown of the colour scheme for dashboard warning lights. 

  • Green/ blue lights: These are generally informational. When lit up, they will inform that a system or function is active, operational, or functioning correctly. 
  • Orange/ amber/ yellow: Depending on the age of the car, you could have any of these colours in the car. However, the intention for all three colours in this group is the same: there is a problem with the vehicle; however, the severity is low and can be easily resolved. The infamous check engine light falls in this category. 
  • Red/ flashing red: Used to denote crucial information or about a system malfunction. Red is also used for signs involving seatbelts and airbags for both driver and passenger; these are considered crucial since driver safety is the priority for the vehicle. 

Now that we know how colours can help you identify which type of dashboard warning light is currently active, lets look at the most common warning lights on the dashboard and go through a quick explanation as well as what needs to be done when such a light is displayed. 

The most common car warning lights, explained

common car warning lights

These lights are the most common car warning lights, and basic knowledge for the course of action afterwards should be common knowledge to avoid getting stranded while on the go. Lets start with what is arguably the most common and potentially the worst offender in the world of dashboard warning lights. 

Check engine light

    Usually amber or orange, some older cars may also read the text ‘CHECK ENGINE’ in red. It is supposed to inform you that something might be wrong with the engine, but unfortunately, this particular light remains one of the most vague and ambiguous light of them all. If this light is displayed, it could mean anything wrong with the engine, the emissions system, or anything related to the powertrain, really. The problem with this is, unless the car comes to a grinding halt or audible noises/ driving issues manifest with the light, there’s really no telling why the check engine light might have just turned on. It could be a loose fuse, a worn solenoid, or it could be something seriously wrong with the engine itself. Which is why it is usually suggested that whenever this light turns on, pull your car to the side, open the bonnet, and inspect the engine bay thoroughly. Should the light persist, take it to a garage nearby to have the engine inspected professionally. 

    Battery light

      The battery light, denoted with ‘positive, negative terminals on a rectangle’, is another common light that drivers see all the time when starting the car. However, as soon as the engine cranks, the light is supposed to go away. In case it persists, there might be something wrong with the battery; usually, if the light persists, the car fails to start at all, and you can hear the sound of the engine cranking and failing. Get your battery checked immediately should the battery sign persist or show up during driving. 

      Temperature light

        As opposed to older cars, which utilized a temperature gauge, modern cars use dashboard warning lights that convey if the coolant (and by extension, the car) is running too hot. Denoted with a thermometer that looks like it’s taking a dip in a pool, this light is considered crucial, since it means that the engine is running hot. It could be anything; leaking coolant reservoir, burst hose or pipes, or even the radiator fan not working. What it means is that driving with the temperature light on can seriously damage the engine, even rendering it useless if persisted too much. 

        Oil pressure warning light

          In older cars and some new performance-oriented cars, the oil pressure gauge tells you how much operational pressure the oil pump is putting out. Oil pressure is imperative as the engine, if starved of oil, could soon begin to overheat and persistent driving on low engine oil pressure could seriously damage the engine. The light itself is denoted by a lamp (sort of) with a drop of oil. It’s instantly recognizable and can be crucial, especially if it lights up during operation. 

          Brake/ ABS light

            Braking is one of the most important systems of the car; ask anybody who’s ever failed to stop and has had a crash. The entire braking system is denoted by two signs: one uses an exclamation mark in brackets (which deals with brakes, the e-brake or the handbrake) and the ABS light, which deals with the anti-lock braking system of a vehicle. Should any of these turn on during normal operations of the car, it usually means that the system might have a fault. While ABS is a secondary system, if the brake light suddenly lights up during driving, it could mean that either you’ve left the parking brake or handbrake on, or there’s something wrong with the braking system. Have your car checked as soon as possible. Traction control/ ESC light

              Modern cars have sophisticated traction control systems, complemented by an ESC or electronic stability control system. These essentially monitor the grip and the stability of a car, and since newer vehicles like SUVs and trucks require such programmes to help keep them glued to the road, they are considered crucial for the car. Traction control is usually denoted by a car with squiggly lines behind it (some older models may use an abbreviation of the system moniker TCS) and ESC is also denoted by its own abbreviation. If these turn on during driving, take your car to a garage immediately and have the system checked. 

              Airbag warning

                Denoted by a round ball with a belted-in passenger, airbag warning are common as modern cars annoyingly beep or chime at you until you put on your seatbelt or activate the passenger side airbag. If this turns on, be careful, since a severe malfunction with the SRS or supplemental restraint system could cause the airbag to potentially fire off without any prompt. Get it repaired as soon as possible by the authorized dealer or a competent garage service. 

                Magnum Autoclub: car maintenance done right!

                Magnum Auto club treats your car to a special level of care, one that makes it feel like new again. For those of us who treat our cars like the machine that gets them from point A to point B, they can get a bit hairy, and maintenance for our cars is something that eludes most of us. However, Magnum Autoclub returns that new car feel to you and treats your car to another level of care. From engine maintenance to tires, oil and fluid top-ups, Magnum gets your car to the next level. Trust us with your car and get ready to drive home in a brand-new-feel car.

                Leave a Comment

                Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

                Scroll to Top