Car Warning Lights: What They Mean and How to Deal with Them

Published: 10/22/2010 by AutoShopit

Car Warning Lights: What They Mean and How to Deal with Them

Most cars today are created with state-of-the-art technology. When it comes to diagnosing problems, you can now easily know what part of the car has the problem when the warning lights in your dashboard flash on.  Don't be embarrased that you don't know what these lights mean, according to some surveys, approximately half of women and one-third of men  don't know the meaning of these important flashing buttons.  Not knowing can put your safety on the road at risk.

Although warning lights differ depending on the manufacturer most are similar in their function across all vehicles from different brands. Usually, the most complete information on these warning lights are provided in the vehicle’s manual when you first bought the vehicle.  You can look through the manual to become more familiar with these lights.

You not only need to know what the lights mean, but most importantly you need to know what to do when these warning lights flash on your dashboard. Listed below are the most common car warning lights, what they mean, and a recommendation on what to do.  If you are ever unsure or in doubt, you should always play it safe and visit your local auto mechanic shop to have it checked out. 

  • Check Engine Lights or Malfunction Indicator Light - Flashing check engine light button means there is an emission problem or an engine management system problem. The computer has turned it on because it has logged one or more diagnostic trouble codes that correspond to engine problems. When it flashed and you are driving, reduce your speed until it stops illuminating. However, when it continues to flash, have the vehicle checked immediately.
  • Brake Warning Light - There are two reasons why your brake warning light is on. Its either you just failed to release the parking break or its a hydraulic problem. To see which one is causing the brake warning alarm, take a look at the parking pedal, handle, or brake lever and fully release it. If you have crossed out this possibility, press the pedal and see if the light goes on together with it. If so, you have a problem with one of the circuits in your braking system. If it really is the hydraulic problem, don’t attempt to drive your vehicle and have it serviced immediately.
  • Oil Pressure Warning Light - If your dash displays oil or a little oil can image, don’t ignore this light and try to resolve it as soon as you can. It means that there is low oil pressure in the engine due to a low oil level. If the engine runs out of oil it will cause damage to several engine parts and sever engine damage. To solve this, add oil and make sure that it reaches the full mark in the dipstick.
  • Temperature Warning Light - When the image of a thermometer displays in your dashboard, never disregard it because it means that your engine has overheated. If you continue driving, it may lead to cylinder head cracks, head gasket failure, and other very expensive engine damage. Stop the engine and let it cool for 30 minutes. If after 30 minutes of cooling and the temperature light is still on, have your car checked by your mechanic.
  • Low Tire Pressure Warning Light - When this button turns on, it means that your tire is underinflated, more than 25 percent. Try to take your car to a gas station to add air in your tire to prevent a tire blowout.
  • Charging System or Battery Warning Light - This light means that your battery has very little power left.  Along with the battery, your ignition system will also stop working. This is usually caused by leaving a light in the car on.  If you lose your battery then you will need to have your car jumpstarted. 

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of some of the possible causes of why your dashboard lights go on.  Remember if you are ever unsure of what it means, try to avoid driving as much as possible and take it into a local car repair shop to have it checked out. 

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