Cars these days have a lot of Tec packed into them and there is a growing number of dashboard lights , we make decoding these icons easy and have listed the most seen lights and their meanings.
Common Car Dashboard Lights
Oil pressure warning: Comes on when there is low oil pressure detected, the most common reason is the oil level is too low, you should turn off the car as soon as you see this and check the oil level. If it is low top it up with the correct oil type and start the engine again.
If the oil level is fine and the light is still on you will need to stop using the car and contact a mechanic, using the car with the oil light on can cause severe engine wear and damage as the oil might not be lubracting the pistons.
Battery Light: The charging system has a fault and the battery is not recharging, this is usually an alternator or alternator belt problem. It is recommended you go and get the car electrics checked.
Brake Light: Indicates a problem with the braking system and usually means the brake fluid is low, check the level of fluid or take it in to be checked. If your car is continually requiring brake fluid then there is a leak somewhere and you need to get it repaired. Usually brake fluid does not need topping up.
ABS Light: ABS system is faulty and should be checked soon, abs affects braking function so should be taken in for inspection before any highway or off road use.
Traction control: Will illuminate if there is a problem with ABS and also flas when the car is driving in hazardous conditions and traction control is being used.
Temperature Light: Shows when the engine temperature is too high and overheating, sometimes the car will automatically turn off, if not immediately turn the car off when safe to do so. Let it cool down before restarting. Check the coolant level once it has cooled and make sure the radiator and water hoses are not leaking. Generally this should not happen unless you have been pushing the engine hard or there is a fault in the cooling system.
Engine Emissions: Indicates a fault in the emissions or general running of the engine, this can cause the engine to shut off or go into limp home mode, the power of the vehicle is reduced to ensure the engine is not damaged. This light is one of the more serious lights and should not be unnecessarily driven until a mechanic inspects the fault code .
Glow plug light: indicates the plugs are warming up, start the car after it disappears.
Tyre Pressure Monitor: The tyre pressure is too low or too high, check all typre pressure levels are correct, usually the pressure settings are written inside the drivers side door frame, open the door and look near the bottom of the seat for a sticker with pressure readings, or check the car manual.
Front Airbag light: This shows an airbag fault and the airbags will not be operating until this issue is fixed, you will need a OBD scan tool or a mechanic to diagnose why the system is faulty.
Rear fog lights: indicates the rear fog lights are switched on, a green light indicates the frontward facing lights.
Overdrive indicator: shows overdrive is turned off, this indicates the automatic transmission will favour performance over fuel efficiency, and should only be used if necessary.
High beam lights: show when you have the front high beam or flood lights on, if any oncoming traffic is spotted be sure to turn high beam off.
Low fuel: Shows the fuel level is low and you should fill up the car soon. Most cars will run 20-50km once the light turns on but don’t chance it, running a car dry can damage the fuel pump.
Open door : Shows a door is ajar. Check doors are closed properly.
Dashboard Icon Database
The ones above are just the common dashboard warning light; if you want a comprehensive list here is a decent list covering standard and unique lights. How many do you know?
With the right guidance; learning to understand your car can be easy and hopefully this has opened your eyes to the lights in your dashboard. This is just the beginning; the next step is getting into the computer with OBD tools, we will have that article soon… As always, if in doubt go to your mechanic and always stop ASAP if any red dashboard light turns on, happy motoring.