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You’re on your way to the mall when one of your car’s warning lights comes on. What should you do?

Common car warning lights, what they mean and why you should always check engine light codes.

If you compiled a list of all the car warning lights used on all makes and models, you’d end up with about 480 different ones. This article is about 10 common car and truck warning lights that you should be aware of when driving.1

Red means stop

The first thing to remember if a car warning light comes on while driving is not to panic. Next, look at the color of the lighted symbol. If it’s red, it means there’s a safety issue or something is seriously wrong with your car. Stop immediately and call a repair service or shop. Orange or yellow remind you that something needs to be serviced soon, like an oil change, or that something is wrong with your emissions system. While not an emergency, you should have a repair person look at problem as soon as possible. Green or blue indicates a system is working properly or a system is on, such as when your headlights are on bright.2

Tip: If a blinking yellow car warning light comes on, treat it as you would a red light.

Ten common indicators or symbols3, 4, 5

  • Check engine light
    Comes on when a problem affecting your vehicle’s exhaust emissions causes your car’s computer system to trigger a repair code. If red, stop and contact a repair shop immediately.

  • Oil pressure warning
    If this warning light stays lit, it indicates loss of oil pressure. Immediately stop and check oil level.

  • Coolant temp warning
    Indicates temperature has exceeded normal limits. Stop and let engine cool off and check your coolant level.

  • Brake system light
    Indicates the parking brake is on; there’s a problem with the braking system/brake fluid is low; or there’s a problem with your anti-lock brake system (ABS). Contact a repair shop as soon as possible.

  • Tire pressure warning
    Goes on when one of your tires is underinflated by 25%. Stop and check your tire pressures to determine which is low and make sure it is not damaged or has a puncture.

  • Low fuel indicator
    Usually lights up when you have less than two gallons of fuel left.

  • Battery/charging alert
    The charging system light (usually a battery symbol or the word “ALT” or “GEN”) illuminates when the vehicle electrical system is no longer being supplied power by the alternator. Have the alternator tested.

  • Transmission temperature
    Transmission is operating at higher than optimum temperature or transmission fluid is hotter than normal. Stop and let the transmission cool off.

  • Service vehicle soon indicator
    Alerts you that your vehicle is nearing a recommended or warranty service event, such as changing the oil or rotating your tires. Contact a repair shop to schedule an appointment.

  • Airbag fault
    There’s a fault in your airbag system and one or more airbags have been disabled. Contact a repair shop as soon as possible. You can find a list of dealers here.

Tip: If a blinking yellow car warning light comes on, treat it as you would a red light.

Learn More:




1 http://www.eario.com/car_warning_lights.html

2 http://dashboardsymbols.com/the-symbols/

3 http://newsroom.aaa.com/2011/01/heed-the-warning-aaa-reminds-drivers-to-not-ignore-their-cars-warning-lights/

4 http://dashboardsymbols.com/the-symbols/

5 http://www.autozone.com/landing/page.jsp?name=vehicle-warning-indicators

Additional Sources:


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