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Warning Light On Cars (What Do they Mean?)

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Our modern vehicles are equipped with warning lighting symbols to help you manage your vehicle and ensure safe driving. Our post will help you understand these warning lights, which ones are critical, and which ones are informational to assist you while driving. Do we need to take action when this warning light on cars come on?

Critical flashing dashboard lighting on your dash requires immediate attention and care for your vehicle. When a warning symbol comes on, confirm its message and protect yourself and your car.

Top 25 Common Car Warning Light On Cars Meaning

Top 25 dasboard warning symbols

Depending on the make and model of vehicle you are driving, there are a plethora of lights on your dash indicating the condition of your engine, transmission, and emission systems. All light indicators will initially turn on for a few seconds when the car is started and then turn off once the car starts. If any of these lights remain on, take the appropriate action indicated to protect your vehicle.

Check Engine Light

The check engine light can turn on for many reasons. Low oil pressure, overheating, or even a loose gas cap causing fuel to leak out. Always stop the car and check for any problems. If the check engine light is flashing, it indicates a more serious problem that could cause damage to the engine if ignored.

Engine Oil Pressure Warning Light

The engine oil pressure warning light turns on if the oil level is low in the engine or if the oil pump is not circulating oil sufficiently to lubricate the engine surfaces. Always address this issue immediately, as significant damage can occur to your engine if its oil is not circulating properly. Occasionally the light is on after an oil change.

Tire Pressure Warning Light

The TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is becoming increasingly popular in newer vehicles. The system monitors the tire pressure and turns on the warning light if the tire pressure is too low or too high. Some systems will tell you which tire is low and the tire pressure, while others indicate that one of the tires needs to be addressed.

Engine Temperature Warning Light

The engine temperature warning light indicates that your engine is overheating. This can be caused by the insufficient coolant in the cooling system, a broken water pump, a broken cooling fan, or a broken belt. Wait for the engine to cool down and then add coolant to the indicated level.

Traction Control System Light

When this light is illuminated, it indicates that the traction control system is on. The system works by applying the brake to a wheel that is spinning and slipping until it regains traction. The system is intended for slippery conditions in snow, rain, or even muddy situations.

Anti-lock Brake System Warning Light

Whenever the (antilock braking system) ABS light turns on, it usually means there is a problem with the system. Anti-lock brakes work by disengaging the brake if the wheels lock while the brakes are applied to regain steering control. Your ABS light will turn on briefly when the car is started during an initial self-check and then turn off.

ABS Warning or Braking System Malfunction

The ABS or traction control system light illuminates whenever there is a malfunction or if a sensor is not working properly. Many cars have one control module to operate both systems. Mechanics can check for the appropriate error code to determine which system is affected.

Battery Warning Light

When the battery light appears, it indicates a problem with the battery or the charging system. A loose battery cable, a broken engine belt, or an alternator that is generating insufficient power. If your headlights are beginning to fade, the battery is discharging, and eventually, the engine will no longer run.

Low Fuel Indicator

Your running low on fuel when the low fuel indicator illuminates. Always fill up as soon as possible at the nearest gas station. Gambling on making it home often does not work out due to slow traffic, weather, or dirt from the bottom of the tank clogging your fuel filter, causing your engine to stall.

Automatic Shift Lock

The automatic shift lock locks your vehicle in park, on automatic transmissions, and neutral on manual transmissions when attempting to start the ignition. Placing your foot on the brake releases the shift lock and allows the operator to start the engine.

Seat Belt light

In most states and provinces, the law is that you must be buckled up when driving. Safety reports from the CDC indicate that serious injuries from crashes are reduced by more than 50%. The seat belt reminder light stays illuminated until the seat belt is engaged, and there may also be an audible alarm in some vehicles.

Airbag Warning Light

The airbag indicator warning light will illuminate initially upon starting the engine and then turn off once a system check is completed. If the light remains illuminated, there is a problem with the system and should be checked out. Airbags provide safety protection in an accident.

Engine management light

The engine management light or check engine light indicates that an error code has been generated by the ECU, and there is a malfunction. A flashing light indicates a serious problem and should be checked immediately. Have your car’s ECU read and the error code checked by a mechanic.

Fog Lamp Lights Warning

This lamp indicates that the fog lights are on and typically used when visibility has fallen below 100 meters or 300 feet. Turning them on at other times may make it difficult for oncoming drivers on the road.

Washer Fluid Level Indicator

Low washer fluid indicators indicate that fluid in the reservoir is low and could run out, especially if you are driving in heavy rain and dirty conditions. Arrange to add fluid as soon as possible to avoid a dirty windshield compromising your visibility and potentially endangering yourself and your passengers.

Transmission Temperature Light

On cars equipped with this feature, the transmission temperature light indicates that the transmission is overheating, usually due to pulling a heavy load. However, if there is insufficient transmission fluid in the transmission, it will overheat. Check coolant levels, engine fan operation, and if there is also sufficient coolant in the engine cooling system.

Steering Wheel Lock

The steering wheel lock means that the steering wheel is locked and cannot be turned until the key is inserted into the ignition switch, your foot placed on the brake pedal, and the car started. Once the car starts, the light will turn off, and the steering lock is disengaged.

Trailer Tow Hitch

On vehicles equipped with a trailer tow hitch, this warning light indicates the tow hitch has become unlocked or that the lighting system to the trailer has developed a problem of some kind. Safely and quickly pull off the road and check the hitch and the lighting system to ensure everything is properly connected.

Service Engine Soon

The check engine soon light illuminates when there is an issue with the emissions system, ignition, fuel system, or transmission. A flashing light is more serious than a steady light and means your car should be attended to immediately before something more serious occurs.

Parking Brake Light

All vehicles are equipped with a parking brake. However, many people with automatic transmissions seldom use this feature. Whenever the parking brake is engaged, the parking brake light will be illuminated. Disengage the parking brake before attempting to place the vehicle in motion.

Overdrive light or O/D OFF

On vehicles equipped with overdrive, the overdrive system can be switched off. The overdrive light will illuminate whenever the overdrive is turned off. Drivers will often turn off the overdrive in situations where they feel the transmission is being overloaded and may overheat.

Gas/Fuel Car light

If the gas cap is not securely tightened or is missing, the gas/fuel car light will illuminate. This condition may also turn the check engine light on as well. Tightening the gas cap usually solves the issue and causes the light to turn off.

Low beam/ High Beam indicator

These indicators tell the driver whether the high beams or the low beams are on. On many cars, the fog lights are illuminated on a low beam and turned off on when high beams are on. Drivers should switch the beams from high to low whenever they are approaching oncoming traffic.

Cruise Control Light

The cruise control light indicates that the cruise control has been activated. On cars with adaptive cruise control, it will also indicate whether there is a car in front of yours, the set speed and your current speed and how close you are to the vehicle in front of you.

Windshield Defrost Indicator

The windshield defrosts indicator may be located with the environmental controls for AC and heating. The indicator lets you know that the defroster is on. Air is directed to the windshield. There is a second indicator for the rear window defroster, which operates separately. The rear window defroster heats the window with embedded electric wires.

Other Possible Car Dashboard Warning Lights or Symbols On Your Car

  • Security Light – illuminating indicates that your anti-theft system is malfunctioning. It also lights up briefly when the engine is first started.
  • Low-Temperature Warning – as temperatures drop to freezing levels, a warning light will flash along with an audible sound to warn of potential icy conditions.
  • Clogged Air Filter – this symbol means that airflow to the engine has reduced. Check your air filter and replace it as needed.
  • Catalytic Converter – indicates the catalytic converter is overheating and not operating to specifications.
  • Adaptive Suspension Dampers – indicating that there is a malfunction and need repair to the air suspension and damper system.
  • 4Wheel Drive Lock Indicator – when this light comes on, it indicates that 4WD is activated and locked.
  • Lamp Out – indicates that a light is not working on the external part of the car.
  • Rain and Light Sensor – indicates the sensor is not working properly.
  • Key Not Available – indicated the key FOB is not available to start the engine.
  • Hood / Bonnet Open – indicates the car hood is ajar or open.
  • Child safety lock – is on indicating that the rear doors cannot be opened by children in the back seat.
  • Brake Fluid – indicates that the brake fluid levels are low and should be checked.
  • Glow Plug – on diesel engines indicate that the glow plugs are warming. Do not start the engine until these lights go out.
  • ESC light – when this light comes on, it means that the stability control system is active.

Summary

Manufacturers are adding more indicators every year to new vehicle dashboards as cars become more sophisticated. Car owners should spend some time reading the owner’s manual.

Most of these lights will illuminate when the user turns on the ignition switch. Others will require the driver to activate them, like the stability control light. This is a great example of warning symbols that indicate that the system is active and there is no problem with the vehicle.

Other warning symbols like the battery light, low coolant level light, and ABS warning light will indicate that there is an issue with your vehicle. Become familiar with all of the warning lights and what these lights on your car’s dashboard mean. This will help to ensure proper maintenance and safe operation of their vehicles. Take the time to learn what the symbol on your car’s dashboard means.

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