Dashboard warning lights are how your car alerts you when anything is wrong, whether it’s an improperly closed door or the dreaded check engine light.

Every time you start your car or truck, they momentarily illuminate to check sure all systems are secure and prepared to operate. On rare occasions, one light might continue to illuminate, signaling a problem. If any of the warning lights don’t briefly activate, remain on high alert. You might not be able to identify a problem they would alert you to if they weren’t working.

But if you don’t understand what a warning light means or choose to ignore it a tiny problem could evolve into a bigger, more expensive, and potentially dangerous concern. Even the most knowledgeable car owner may struggle to understand what a warning light is trying to say.

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Check Engine

The worst will come first. Car owners detest the check engine light the most. Typically, this warning looks like a silhouetted engine, but occasionally, it’s an even harder-to-miss “CHECK ENGINE” sign in all capital letters.

While it appears like the scariest, this light is one the most unclear because it refers to anything having to do with the car’s powertrain and emissions system in its body parts. A worn solenoid, an ill-fitting gas cap, or a loose wire are examples of minor possible problems. Or it can imply that the engine’s core is experiencing a much more serious issue.

Pull over right away and make a tow call if the light comes on and the car starts acting strangely or making unusual noises. This suggests there’s a significantly more serious problem, such as a misfire that might permanently harm the car’s engine. Neglecting a check-engine light could put you in danger and damage the engine of your car.

Coolant Temperature

The coolant temperature warning, which resembles a thermometer swimming in the water, alerts you when your car is running too hot. This could be brought on by a damaged radiator, a burst or leaky coolant hose, a damaged water pump, low coolant levels in the radiator, or even damage to the radiator itself. If these faults are not addressed, they could develop into far more significant engine concerns. 

Driving an overheated automobile is not only dangerous, but it also runs the risk of permanently damaging your four-wheeled mode of transportation, similar to a blinking check engine light.


The battery warning is simple to understand because it closely resembles the item that requires care. This light reminds many automobile owners of the heart-wrenching “whir whir whir” sound that occurs when a car tries to start but has a dead battery. 

If the battery indicator is on but the car starts and drives normally, this is not a good sign. The battery itself may have a long-term issue, or there may be issues with the wiring, alternator, or other electrical parts of the car.

Oil Pressure Warning

Oil can be won the prize for the finest retro dashboard warning light (complete with a drop of oil coming from it). The simple fact that your car is notifying you that its oil needs to be topped off could be the cause of an illuminated oil pressure indicator. 

More gravely, it can indicate an engine leak or worn components like a damaged oil pump or blown piston ring. You’re in luck if adding oil stops the light from coming on and the engine’s dipstick indicates low oil levels. It’s a good idea to get the problem looked at as soon as possible if that doesn’t work or if the light turns on quickly after you add oil.

Another surefire way to end up with expensive maintenance costs down the road is to drive for extended periods of time with the oil pressure warning sign illuminated. The oil level in your car is just as important to keep it running as the gasoline swirling around in the fuel tank.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

This light resembles the center third of a circle with an exclamation point. The thin lines that go across the bottom are designed to represent a tire’s tread. Nice, huh? But, if you’re driving on tires that are significantly under- or overinflated, things could turn ugly. 

The infotainment system or a display in the driver’s gauges may be used by tire pressure monitors in many contemporary vehicles to show the driver the precise tire pressure at each wheel. For instance, if a tire has much less air pressure than the rest, you should stop the automobile and fill that tire up until it meets the recommended pressure level.

Once the engine is running, check to see whether the warning light disappears. If it doesn’t, the tire may have been damaged and is now rapidly leaking.

Brake System

We all enjoy discussing how quickly a car can reach 60 mph from a standstill. Yet, if a car doesn’t stop quickly and safely after applying the brakes, things could turn dicey. This warning light (or one that says “Parking Brake”) will illuminate when the motorist pulls away while the parking brake is engaged, which is a typical error. Worn brake pads, low brake fluid, or an issue with the anti-lock braking system could be more concerning causes (ABS). 

On a related note, an illuminated ABS light typically indicates a problem with a wheel speed sensor or a connection or wiring issue that can prevent the anti-lock braking system from operating. Driving without ABS is still safe, but you should be aware that complete braking effectiveness especially in an emergency stop needs to be restored.

Traction Control and Stability Control

Although it’s not intended to, it is kind of like an automobile traveling down a winding, rocky road. In order to illustrate what these systems are attempting to prevent, namely your vehicle slipping and sliding all over the road, this warning is sometimes depicted as the front view of a car with two squiggly lines underneath. Remember that when the system is turned on, the traction control and stability control lights will illuminate. It’s likely that if you press the gas pedal in a lot of rain or snow, this dashboard light will come on.

That merely proves these systems are functioning as intended. But, there could be a problem if they activate when your automobile is moving at a modest speed on dry surfaces. A wheel speed sensor would be a typical offender. 

Many cars have some type of driving mode selection that the driver can use to modify these systems. Many sports cars‘ maximum performance settings significantly reduce or disable their traction control and stability systems.

AirBag Warning

This light turning on when your car initially starts is very normal. If it continues to glow while moving, there might be an issue with one of the car’s airbags. Although you won’t end up stranded on the side of the road as a result of this, it might be hazardous if there is an accident.

Lamp Out

One of the dash lights on this list is less serious. Yet, you run the danger of getting into an accident or receiving a costly citation if the lamp or bulb in question is a headlight or taillight. Paradoxically, the lamp-out indicator is sometimes shown as something that resembles a sun with rays surrounding it. A broken lamp or burned-out bulb wouldn’t provide as much light.

Washer Fluid, Door Open, and Low Fuel

There are three that everyone should be aware of and understand. The washer-fluid emblem looks like a windshield with a water jet coming out of it. This signals to the driver that the car’s washer fluid level is low. Not a big deal unless your windscreen is covered in sticky insects and you don’t have the means to remove them. 

The door-open icon often shows a car with one or more doors open from above. You may quickly fix this by closing the trunk or door and driving away or by just looking at the side mirrors. Last but not least, the fuel pump icon can be seen on the low fuel indication.

This indicates that you need to make a pit stop since you are running short on fuel. One more useful tip: The arrow next to this indicator indicates which side of the automobile the gas flap is on.


When something is wrong with your car or it needs repair, your dashboard lights are there to let you know. Understanding what your automobile is attempting to tell you when these lights turn on will help you respond to your car’s demands as quickly as possible.

Learn how to apply for motor car insurance for your vehicle so that you can protect your priceless vehicle and meet your needs for it in case of unforeseen circumstances.