Knowing your dashboard lights

Ever wondered what that light on your dashboard means - and when to worry? Well we've got all the information you need right here.


Chloe Profile Picture

By Chloe Martell

Updated on Dec 4th, 2020

All modern cars these days are pretty good at telling you if there's something wrong with them or if they have a fault, but your dashboard lights aren't something that the theory or driving test requires you to know. For most young drivers, seeing one of those little symbols blinking at you can be a bit worrying if you don't know what it means! This is why it's worth brushing up on your knowledge and familiarising yourself with some of the common warning lights you can expect to appear on your dash throughout your car's life.

Bulb checks and understanding what the colours mean

Bulb check - When you turn on the ignition in your vehicle, you'll notice all of the dashboard lights flash up all at once and then go off again. This is completely normal, but if you notice one of the lights stays on when all the others have gone out - there could be a problem! The colour will depict the urgency of the warning lights and thus allow you to establish whether it's safe to drive or not.

Orange lights - Generally mean there is a problem but it's not going to be detrimental to your car's performance at the time. In most cases it means you just need to put some fluids in your car or you haven't released your hand brake properly! But for whatever reason, if neglected it could get worse or cause damage, so if you see an orange light - it's still worth getting it checked out as soon as you can!

Red lights - Mean something serious is wrong with the vehicle and you should get it looked at immediately. You want to pay close attention if a red warning light comes on in your car as this could mean there is an engine malfunction, the battery isn't working properly, or there's a fault in your braking system. Again red lights shouldn't be ignored and you should get it to a garage or mechanic ASAP.

The most important warning lights to watch out for

brake fluid iconBrake System/Brake fluid warning

This symbol is commonly recognised for its exclamation mark. If it's on, it means there's a problem with your brake fluid system - so it's advised to get it checked right away.

engine lightECU/Engine warning light
The engine warning light doesn't always mean the worst and can be due to a minor electrical sensory fault, but it's still worth getting your vehicle looked at if it comes on. Sometimes you may experience stuttering when you put your foot on the accelerator caused by an engine misfire; if this happens you should speak to a mechanic as leaving it could cause further and possibly irreparable damage.

airbagAirbag warning light
If this light appears after you've switched on your ignition it means the airbag system is faulty. It potentially means your airbags won't deploy in the event of an accident, but it could also mean that your airbag is going to go off at any minute! So again, we strongly advise getting this looked at if it happens to come on in any case.

power steeringPower steering/EPAS warning light
This symbol indicates there is a problem with your power steering. It could mean you just need to top up your power steering fluid levels, but if after you have done this and your steering still feels slow and heavy - contact your local garage or dealer.

coolant iconCoolant warning light
If your coolant light comes on, you need to top up your coolant levels. It helps to keep on top of this regularly - as does checking your oil and screenwash. If you let the levels run too low your engine could overheat, and again could cause irreversible damage.

oil warning lightOil warning light
The oil warning light means you definitely need a top up if it's flashing away at you. If the warning light persists once you've topped up your oil, you may need get the vehicle looked at urgently and get the filter changed, as neglecting your oil can cause some serious problems with your engine.

tyre pressureTyre pressure monitor warning light
If you own a newer car the likelihood is that there will be a warning light for when your tyre pressure is low. If you drive an older car it may not have this feature, which is why it's important to check your tyre pressure and tread on a regular basis, and before any long journeys. Most garages have facilities for you to put air in your tyres, so don't be afraid to check if they could do with some next time you fill up!

battery charge iconBattery charge warning light
This warning light could indicate your that battery is not charging, or the battery terminals are corroding and on their way out. The symbol will automatically illuminate when the engine is switched on, but if it stays lit then you should think about getting the battery looked at or replaced.

So those are your main warning signs to look out for on your vehicle - bear in mind that not all of them indicate a serious problem, but they shouldn't be ignored as they can cause irreparable damage to your vehicle and if left unattended could potentially put yours and your passengers' lives at risk.

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Chloe Profile Picture

By Chloe Martell

As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!


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