Car dashboard lights
If your car was made in the last ten years or so it almost certainly features a dazzling array of sensors and electronics, all designed to give you an up to date picture of how your vehicle’s running and hopefully make your journeys a little smoother.
But with so many warning lights to look at, it’s not always clear what each and every light indicates when it starts flashing on your dashboard. We’ve put together a handy guide to the various warning lights you may encounter if your car runs into trouble. After all, it’s important to know whether you’re about to break down or you just need to top up your fluids.
When you start your car, you’ll notice that all the dashboard warning lights come on for a moment. This is a bulb check, which is intended to show you if there’s a problem with any of the warning lights. Once the engine is running, the lights should all go out. If one of the lights stays on it means there’s a problem.
These are the most important warning lights to take note of:
Brake system / brake fluid warning
The brake system and brake fluid warning light features an exclamation mark inside a circle. This is a particularly important issue, which you should address immediately if you see it flashing on your dashboard.
ECU/engine warning light
The engine warning light can mean a number of things and when it comes on, it can be accompanied by a loss of power or stuttering when you press the accelerator due to a misfire or some other fault with the engine.
Fortunately, this light doesn’t always signify a hefty mechanic bill, as it can also mean something has happened to the sensor. However, you should always get your mechanic to take a look at your car when you see this warning light, even if you don’t think the engine has a mechanical fault.
Airbag warning light
If you see this warning light, it could mean your airbag is faulty, which means it might not go off in the event of an accident or collision, leaving you and your passengers at greater risk of injury.
Worryingly, this light can also mean your airbag could go off at any time, so it’s a good idea to get it seen to as soon as the light comes on.
Power steering / EPAS warning light
This warning light features a steering wheel and an exclamation mark, so it’s one of the clearer ones. If you see this light on your dash, it’s more than likely you have a problem with your power steering. This means steering becomes heavier and slower, which can be annoying at slower speeds and dangerous on A roads and motorways if you need to react quickly to avoid a collision.
Coolant warning light
This light comes on when your coolant levels are running low. It’s a good idea to regularly top up your coolant before the light comes on as without cooling fluids, your engine could overheat to the point where it is irreversibly damaged.
Oil warning light
As with your coolants, you should regularly check and top up your oil, rather than waiting for the warning light. In fact, if you see the oil warning light flashing, it could already be too late as without oil, your car could grind to a halt and the damage caused will be very expensive to repair.
Tyre pressure monitor warning light
Older cars might not feature a tyre pressure warning light, but even if your car does have a warning light, it’s still a good idea to regularly check the pressure, condition and tread on your tyres manually.
If you see your tyre pressure monitor warning light come on, you could have a puncture, so you should make your way to a service station to inflate as necessary and check the tyres.
Battery charge warning light
The battery charge warning light is another of the more recognisable lights on your dashboard. If this light stays on once the bulb check is complete, there could be an issue with your battery or your electrics.
What to do when you see a warning light
Warning lights are there to stop you causing irreparable damage to your car, so you should take notice if you see one light up or flashing. It’s not always necessary to stop the car and call a tow truck the second you see one but ignoring a warning light could end up costing you.