The meaning of warning lights on your dashboard

by IndianAuto Team | 04/10/2018
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If you have driven a car before, it is very likely that you have seen a galore of lights that seemingly turn on and off in an arbitrary manner. What are they?

Your car is operated by a complex system of parts and technologies, and while you are not required to know everything about it (unless you are a professional mechanic, of course), it is very important to understand at least some of the more common and easy parts of your car, which include a bunch of the lights on the dashboard that you may or may not recognise. The lights are there to make you, the car owner, monitor and know your own vehicle better.

If you are totally honest with yourself, it is unlikely that you know all of the symbols that sometimes light up and sometimes magically dim down on your dashboard, and then you choose to ignore them altogether until the car breaks down and you have to take it to the mechanics. It may feel like we are exaggerating things a bit. Or are we? :)

The truth is while most lights on your dashboard mean some sort of a warning, some do not entail serious consequences. So, it is important to understand what each of them means, so you know how to react and deal with your car.

Generally speaking, warning lights on the dashboard mean that there is something wrong with at least one of the functions on your car. If you pay close attention to the lights on the dashboard, you may save yourself from a hefty repair bill, or in a worse case, an accident. The symbols that each car has may somewhat differ from the others, so to be totally sure, you should check the owner’s manual for more details. Some cars may have all the symbols light up for a split second when you turn on the engine so that the driver can know that all the light bulbs are working fine. In case one or more lights do not turn off after that, you should check the car yourself or bring it to a repair shop, depending on which light is illuminated. Some cars indicate the seriousness of a mechanical or system malfunctions by displaying the warning lights in different colours: a red warning light means immediate actions need to be taken; an orange or yellow warning light means some parts are in need of repair soon, and a green or blue warning light means there is no malfunction. With this kind of car, the best you can do is to avoid the dashboard blinking like a Christmas tree. It may look fun but it is not fun at all to drive a car that can get you into trouble at any moment.

1. Fuel indicator light

The fuel indicator light most of the times looks like an ATM or a fuel pump attempting suicide by putting a shotgun to its head. Though the image may look like a picture with a grim meaning, the symbol simply tells you: “Hey, the fuel is running low! Feed me some gas!” If the light is lit, it is high time you paid the gas station a visit.

Red fuel indicator light on dashboard

The fuel indicator light indicates that you need to fill your car with fuel

3. Open door alert

Open door alert has many sizes and shapes but one of the more common ones looks like a bug that has stick-look-alike wings and is carrying a backpack. In most cases, the open door alert is lit only after the engine is started. When the open door alert is illuminated, you should check all car doors to see whether they have been shut properly or not. Ajar door is dangerous not only to the passengers on the car but also to other road users too.

Red door open alert

A door open alert indicates that you have not closed the door tightly enough

4. Engine temperature warning light

The engine temperature warning light bears a strong resemblance to key swimming in the ocean. When the engine temperature warning light is lit, it suggests that the engine is overheating, which is a real and serious danger, so no one should continue driving a car if this light is on. It is recommended that you find the safest place to stop your car as soon as possible and turn off the engine. If after a while you turn on your car and the engine temperature warning light is still on, there is a possibility that the cooling system has some kind of malfunctions. In that case, drive your car slowly to the nearest repair shop.

 Red Engine temperature warning light on dashboard

An engine temperature warning light means that the engine needs to be cooled down

5. Battery alert

If a symbol on your dashboard looks like a lego piece winking at you with no mouth, high chance that is the battery alert. In a lot of cars, the battery alert lights up when you start the car, but if after a few seconds it does not turn off, it is likely that there is something wrong with the car’s electrical system. Someone with little technical knowledge cannot deal with this problem, so in this situation, car owner should seek help from professionals as soon as possible.

Battery alert

A battery alert means that your car is running out of battery

6. Airbag warning light

For some reasons, the airbag warning light makes us think of a person who is sitting and holding a giant lollipop. If the light is on, you know there is something not right with at least one of the airbags, or the whole airbag system for that matter. The airbag is an essential safety feature in cars, so if you see this light flickering in front of your eyes, go have your car checked out.

Yellow airbag warning light on dashboard

An airbag warning light is the indication of something wrong with at least one airbag

7. Oil warning light

If you see a magic lamp symbol light up on the dashboard, it means one of the followings: the oil is too hot, there are some problems with the oil pressure system, or your car does not have much oil left in the engine. Car oil is the liquid that lubricates and makes the engine operate smoothly, so if there is an oil warning, chances are that your engine can be seriously damaged if you try to continue driving your car. In this case, stop as soon as possible and contact a trusted mechanic right away.

Oil warning light

An oil warning light means that the car is running out of oil or the oil is too hot

8. Engine warning light

The engine warning light looks like a helicopter with two rotors, one on the top and one at the front. If you see this symbol turned on, there is no better option than to take your car to a repair shop immediately. The engine warning light blinks for various reasons and a normal car driver usually cannot pinpoint the cause. In the worst scenario, if you persist in driving the car, your car may have to suffer some irreparable damage.

Yellow engine warning light on dashboard

If you insist on driving when there is an engine warning light on the dashboard, your car can suffer from serious damages.

9. Brake system warning light

The brake system warning light has the simple appearance of an exclamation mark enveloped by a circle with two curved ears. The light can be turned on for an array of reasons that have to do with your braking system. The brake is one of the most important things in the car, so to ensure your own safety, bring your car to a professional as soon as you possibly can to have it examined.

Brake system warning light

If the brake system warning light is on, you should have your car examined immediately

>>> Read more tips and guides from IndianAuto

CNG car maintenance tips

All You Need to Know about Warning Lamps (Part I)

All You Need to Know about Warning Lamps (Part II)

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