Cars

This is what your car’s warning light symbols are telling you

This is what your car's warning light symbols are telling you

Depending on what you drive (and how you take care of it), your car may have anywhere from zero to half a dozen different warning lights on the dashboard at any given time. They’re all trying to tell you something, and some are more urgent than others. If you have a new light on your dash (or if you’ve been driving with one on longer than you care to admit), you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ll detail all of the most common car warning lights you’ll see behind the wheel, what they mean, and how to remove them from your dashboard.

Check Engine/Repair Engine Light

Ah yes, the dreaded check engine light. For many of us, the check engine light sounds like a likely death sentence for our cars, but truth be told, it’s not always a big deal. Your car flashes the check engine light whenever something is wrong with any part of your engine or emissions system.

This means that a check engine light can be something as innocuous as a loose gas cap or as serious as a major internal failure. It’s frustrating not knowing what your check engine light is telling you, but there’s an easy way to get to the bottom of this mysterious warning: take your car to any major auto parts chain.

That’s because Auto Zone, O’Reillys, Pep-Boys or any other reputable chain will diagnose your check engine light for free: all they have to do is hook your vehicle up to a code reader to see Where is the problem. If it’s a simple emissions issue, you’re in luck: your car is safe to drive for now, but you’ll need to fix the issue as soon as possible to keep your vehicle legal and safe. registered. If it’s more serious, you probably have a visit to the mechanic in your immediate future…

Oil pressure warning light

Check the engine light on a car's dashboard.

Your oil pressure warning light (that old-fashioned oil canister, usually appearing on your dashboard in red “time to panic”) is another you shouldn’t ignore. Like a check engine light, the oil pressure warning light can come on for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are immediately life threatening to your vehicle.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a small oil leak causing your fluid level to drop too low, and sometimes it’s as complex as a blown piston ring inside the engine. Either way, for some reason your car’s lubrication system is missing something it needs to do its job, and you need to take care of it right away.

Start by checking your oil level (you’ll need to give the car time to cool down first) and top up if necessary. Driving with a minor oil leak isn’t a big deal, but driving a car without enough oil in the engine is a great way to gas your engine. At some point, you will need to understand how and why your vehicle is losing oil/oil pressure, which may or may not involve a costly repair. Start by checking under the car for signs of leaks (dark spots in your driveway are a dead sign here), but if there’s no obvious leak or your car is running poorly, don’t delay. not to have it repaired.

Temperature warning light

The temperature warning light is serious, and if you see it popping up on your dashboard, it’s time to pull over and turn off the car. This light tells you that your engine is overheating for some reason and continuing to drive could lead to serious engine failure. Chances are you either have a leaky radiator or a bad thermostat, although it could be something more serious like a blown head gasket. If you’re not comfortable diagnosing a cooling system problem on the fly, you’ll probably want to have your car towed to a shop just to be safe.

Tire pressure sensor warning light

If your vehicle has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), chances are you will see this light at some point. Typically, this light tells you one of two things: either you have one or more underinflated tires, or you have a TPMS sensor that needs to be replaced.

To determine the culprit, you’ll want to use a pressure gauge to check the pressure in each of your tires. If you find a tire that needs a little air, just bump it up to the factory recommended pressure to get it off the dash. If you check all four tires and they are all properly inflated, chances are the TPMS sensor itself is not working properly and you need to take your car to a tire shop or mechanic to have it repaired. have it replaced.

Whether or not the light goes out, it’s perfectly safe to drive with that light on as long as you know all four tires are properly inflated. Just be sure to check your tires regularly and have your vehicle checked as soon as you get the chance.

Battery charge indicator

If you see the little red battery light appear on your dashboard, you have a problem somewhere in your electrical system that is preventing your battery from charging properly. Most often the culprit is simply an old battery that is at the end of its useful life, but this light can also indicate a faulty alternator, drive belt, or even a problem in the wiring somewhere that is siphoning power from the battery. Most auto parts stores will diagnose a battery light for free, so come and have it checked at the first opportunity.

Brake system warning light

As you might guess, the brake system warning light means that there is something wrong with your vehicle’s brake system. Chances are you’ve seen this once or twice when trying to pull away with the parking brake on.

Brake lights come on in a variety of situations, including worn brake pads, faulty ABS sensors, low brake fluid levels, or the aforementioned parking brake scenario. Being able to stop your vehicle is quite important, so unless you know for sure what the problem is and how it impacts your safety, we do not recommend driving your vehicle with this light on.

Low fuel warning light

A low fuel car warning light on a dashboard.

Think of the low fuel warning light as a friendly reminder to your car that it can’t run on positive mental energy alone. This light means it’s time to start looking for a gas station as soon as possible. There’s no need to panic though: the low fuel light usually comes on when you still have between 1 and 2 gallons left in the tank. If the light starts flashing, be aware that you only have a few miles left before the car runs out completely, which can be hard on your fuel system.

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