WHAT DO ALL THOSE DASHBOARD LIGHTS MEAN, ANYWAY?
If you compiled a list of all the dashboard warning lights used on all makes and models of cars, you’d end up with about 480 different symbols and indicators.1 There are several common car and truck warning lights that you should be aware of when driving.1 Make sure to check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s specific dashboard warning lights.
Red means stop.
The first thing to remember if a dashboard 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. Safely pull over, turn off the engine, and call a repair service or shop to see if your car is safe to drive or if it needs service and you need a tow.
Orange or yellow dashboard lights 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 the problem as soon as possible.
Green or blue symbols indicate a system is working properly or a system is on, such as when your high beam headlights are on.2
Tip: If a yellow car warning light starts blinking, treat it as you would a red light and call a repair service right away.
Check engine light
This dashboard 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, pull over safely, turn off the engine, and contact a repair shop immediately.
Learn more about when your engine light is on here.
Oil pressure warning
If this warning light stays lit, it indicates loss of oil pressure. Pull over safely, turn off the engine, and check the oil level.
Coolant temp warning
This symbol indicates the engine temperature has exceeded normal limits. Pull over safely, turn off the engine, and let the engine cool off before checking your coolant level.
Brake system light
You might notice a brake system dashboard warning light when the parking brake is on. If so, there’s a problem with the braking system, the brake fluid is low, or your anti-lock brake system (ABS). Contact a repair shop as soon as possible to have your brakes checked.
Tire pressure warning
When one of your tires is underinflated by 25%, the tire pressure warning indicator will light up. Stop and check your tire pressure on each tire to determine which is low so you can get it properly filled to continue driving.
Low fuel indicator
Many drivers are familiar with the low fuel indicator light. When you have less than two gallons of fuel left in your gas tank, this symbol with appear to let you know it’s time find a gas station.
The charging system light (usually a battery symbol or the word “ALT” or “GEN”) illuminates when the vehicle’s electrical system is no longer being supplied power by the alternator. Have your mechanic test the alternator at your earliest convenience.
This car warning light will come on when the transmission is operating at higher than optimum temperature or the transmission fluid is hotter than normal. Safely pull over, shut off the engine, and contact your mechanic as the transmission cools.
Service vehicle soon indicator
This indicator alerts you that your vehicle is nearing a recommended or warranty service event, such as changing the oil or rotating your tires. When you see this, you should contact a repair shop to schedule an appointment.
If there’s a fault in your airbag system and one or more airbags have been disabled, the airbag fault dashboard light will come on. Contact a repair shop as soon as possible. You can find a list of dealers here.
When you encounter a dashboard warning light it usually means that service may be needed on your vehicle, but it doesn’t have to slow you down. The Synchrony Car Care™ credit card is there to help you finance all the automotive expenses - planned and unplanned, big and little – for your car, truck or RV. Find out more here.
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