A guide to the symbols lighting up on your dashboard
Modern vehicles can have any number of dashboard lights that mean different things. The various car dashboard symbols vary by year, make and model, but all vehicles have an array of different symbols to inform you what might be going on with your car. Some symbols are fairly obvious in what they mean, while others aren’t. You should consult your vehicle owner’s manual if you aren’t sure what a symbol means.
If you aren’t sure why a dashboard warning light is on or are experiencing car trouble, don’t hesitate to stop by our Sedalia repair and service center so that our ASE-certified technicians can take a look and get the problem taken care of. We’ll have you back on the road in no time!
In the meantime, let’s take a look at some common car light symbol meanings.
Oil pressure/change light
A light like this, which looks something like a genie bottle with a drop coming out of the stem, usually illuminates when your oil pressure system is not working correctly. If you see this light, you might be low on oil or your oil pump might not be circulating enough fluid. This is a serious warning light that you shouldn’t ignore.
Check engine light
This light is one of the most common warning lights and it can illuminate for many different reasons. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least specific. The check engine light can come on for something as benign as a loose gas cap, or it might indicate something more serious like a loss of compression in the engine.
Tire pressure warning light
You might not find this light on older vehicles, but it’s common on newer models. Typically, it means that 1 or more of your tires has incorrect air pressure. It’s not safe to drive on underinflated or overinflated tires, so we recommend checking the air pressure as soon as possible and adjusting it as required. If your air pressure is fine but your light is still on, bring it to a technician for service to identify the problem.
Engine temperature light
If your vehicle has a yellow or red thermometer light (or something like it) that illuminates, it could mean that your engine is getting too hot. You should pull over immediately if you see this light. An overheating engine can cause serious damage if not allowed to cool. Engines can overheat for many reasons. Perhaps it’s low on coolant, or maybe the radiator is faulty.
Traction control light
If your vehicle is equipped with traction control, this light will illuminate when you’re in a situation with low traction. The light may flash to indicate that the traction control system is working to keep your vehicle from slipping.
Transmission temperature light
Similar to engine temperature, this light indicates that your transmission is overheating. Again, you should pull over immediately if you see this light. An overheating transmission might mean low transmission fluid due to a leak or there’s another serious problem.
Anti-lock brake warning light
This light usually illuminates with the acronym “ABS” (which stands for anti-lock braking system) in the center. You might see this flash on when you start up your vehicle, but it should go away shortly. If it stays on or illuminates while you’re driving, then this indicates a problem with your braking system.
Traction control malfunction
This light is different from the basic system light and usually shows an exclamation point. It means that there may be a problem with your vehicle’s traction control system. In some vehicles, this light might also mean a problem with your ABS.
Battery warning light
The battery indicator light generally features a battery with plus and minus symbols. If you see this light illuminate, that means your charging system isn’t working properly. The problem might be the battery itself since these need to be replaced every few years, or it could be the alternator or some other electrical issue.
This light also commonly appears when you first start your vehicle, but it should quickly go away. If it illuminates while driving or stays on, you should take it to a repair shop as soon as possible because your engine may lose power.
Low fuel indicator
All vehicles have this light, and most people will see it sooner or later. It is usually located right next to your fuel gauge. How much fuel you have left when the low fuel light illuminates varies by vehicle. To avoid running out of gas, it’s best to play it safe and fill up the tank as soon as possible.
Reduced engine power light
Many newer vehicles have failsafe systems that limit engine performance if there’s a serious issue. This keeps engine and transmission components from being more seriously damaged.
Usually, this light will come on with the check engine light. Even though you can probably still drive the vehicle, it’s best to visit a repair shop immediately to avoid further damaging engine components.
Automatic shift lock
You might see this light if you try to shift gears in an automatic transmission or start your vehicle without putting your foot on the brake. Some vehicles don’t require brake engagement to start.
Brake warning light
This light is usually red with the text “Brake” in the middle of it. If you see this light, it usually means that your parking brake is engaged or that there is some other issue with your braking system. Other causes might include low brake fluid, worn brake parts or a stuck parking brake.
Seat belt reminder
You might see this light, along with hearing a warning bell, if seat belts aren’t engaged. Some vehicles only have this notification for the front seats, while others may have it for rear seats as well.
Airbag warning light
You will usually see this light flash on when you first start your vehicle, but it shouldn’t stay on. If it does, then it likely indicates a fault in your airbag system.
Door warning light
On most vehicles, you’ll see this light if one or more doors are not closed tightly. This includes the trunk or hatchback.
Did one of your dashboard lights come on?
While some of these lights are easily resolved (by, for instance, shutting the trunk or buckling up), it’s important to get in touch with your mechanic if some of these lights come on and stay illuminated. If you live in Central Missouri, you can bring your car to our ASE-certified repair center at Bryant Motors in Sedalia, MO for exceptional service. We service ALL makes and models, regardless of whether or not you bought your vehicle from our dealership.