Car warning lights and what they mean
The full list of car dashboard warning lights and what they mean…
Whenever you turn your car on, all of the lights on your dashboard should flash on. But what does it mean if one of your car warning lights stays on? We’ve got a full breakdown of the most common car warning lights and what they mean.
When it comes to car warning lights, ignoring it and hoping it goes away is never the right option. Leaving any of these problems could become both dangerous and expensive. The colour of the light on the dashboard symbol should generally indicate how urgent the problem is:
RED: you need to take immediate action
YELLOW/AMBER: you should sort out the problem as soon as you can
GREEN: less urgent but you should still try to sort out the issue ASAP
1. Brake warning light
This light on your dashboard could mean that the brake fluid is too low and needs topping up, that the brake pad wear sensor is faulty or there could be a more serious problem with your braking system. Brakes should not feel spongy so this could be another indicator that you’ve got a problem. It’s a good idea to see a professional to get it checked out if you see this warning light.
2. Low fuel light
This one is familiar to most of us, the dreaded low fuel sign. Generally, this comes on when you’ve got about 10% fuel left which is around 30 to 50 miles in most cars.
3. Seat belt reminder
This red warning light will turn on if the seat belt sensor detects that you or one of your passengers does not have their seat belt securely on.
4. Fog lamp indicator
The fog lamp indicator is usually green or amber and looks just like the headlight indicator. You should only have your fog lights on when visibility is reduced to 100 metres or less, it’s important not to leave them on in good conditions because they may dazzle other drivers. The fog lamp indicator is there to remind you when they’re on.
5. Washer fluid indicator
The washer fluid indicator means that the fluid is low and you should go and fill it up. While this isn’t an emergency warning light, you should fill up your washer fluid as soon as possible. Once you’ve filled up the reservoir with fluid the light should turn off.
6. Airbag indicator
The airbag indicator on your dashboard is there to let you know if your airbags are deactivated or not working properly. It’s important to take your car to the garage straight away if you see this warning light because it means your airbags may not turn on if you get into an accident.
7. Engine warning light
An amber engine management light or ‘check engine’ sign on your dashboard means your car’s electronics have found a problem with the engine. It won’t tell you specifically what the problem is but it tells you that you need to get your engine looked at by a professional. The idea is that you’ll find a potential issue early on and prevent further damage.
8. Security light
This warning light is usually a symbol of a car with a spanner. You’ll only see this warning light if your car has an anti-theft system. If it stays on while your car is running it means that the security system has failed and is disabled.
9. Power steering warning light
The power steering warning light being on means the power assist is not working and so won’t help you steer. It’s likely that the wheel will feel stiff and heavy if this light is illuminated.
If you have a hydraulic steering system, this may be caused by low steering fluid. In this case, topping up your fluid should solve the problem. If not, it’s important to get your car looked at straight away.
10. DPF light
DPF stands for ‘Diesel Particulate Filters’ and it’s there to remove soot from diesel engines. If your DPF light is on it means your filter is blocked with soot.
You may be able to solve this by taking a drive on the motorway. The high speed and long distance heats up your car and burns the soot away. If your light is still on, it may be time to take your car to a professional.
11. Automatic shift lock or engine start indicator
The ASL symbol on your dashboard is there to remind you that you need to step on the brake to release the lock. This will shift the transmission, starting your car’s ignition or taking it out of neutral.
12. Engine temperature warning light
The temperature warning light is there to let you know that your engine is overheating and the temperature is too high. If you see this warning light, it’s important to get it sorted ASAP to avoid expensive costs. If your coolant level light isn’t also on, your cooling system may be broken. If topping up your coolant doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll need to take your car to the garage.
13. Coolant levels warning light
This symbol lighting up on your car dashboard means your coolant level is too low. This is a sign that your engine is overheating so you may see it alongside the engine temperature warning indicator. Top up your engine coolant as soon as possible.
14. Low oil pressure warning light
This means that your car’s oil pressure is too low. If this warning light is on your car isn’t safe to drive so you’ll need to stop and check your oil level. If your levels are low, you can top it up with oil. If they are at the right level, there may be an issue with the oil supply and you may need to take your car to the garage.
15. Tyre pressure warning light
Otherwise known as the TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) sensor, this symbol is there to let you know when your tyre pressure is too low. This means your tyres are underinflated which could lead to tyre wear and even tyre failure. It’s a good idea to check your tyre pressure manually if you get this warning light.
16. Battery warning light
The battery warning light means your car’s battery isn’t being charged by the alternator and is running on its own charge. The first thing you should do if this happens is turn off everything electrical you don’t need like your air con, heating or radio. Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. If you carry on driving you could lose power steering and then lose power completely.
17. Anti-lock-brake system (ABS) warning light
Your ABS system helps your car’s wheels stay in contact with the road and prevents them from locking up when you’re braking hard. It’s there to stop your car skidding. If your ABS light is on it means there’s an issue with your car’s ABS system.
Your brakes should still be working but you may lose control if you have to do an emergency stop. You’ll need to take your car to the garage as soon as possible.
18. Electronic stability problem (ESP) system light
ESP is a fancy bit of kit that modern cars have for safety protection. It’s designed to improve your car’s stability and prevent skidding. If the ESP light comes on and stays on, it means the system has a fault. You’ll need to take your car to a garage to get the system switched back on.
19.Doors open warning light
These lights indicate your car doors are open. The symbol will either show your side doors, your boot or your bonnet is open.
Staying safe on the road
So, hopefully now you’re up to speed on the car warning lights and what they mean. Keeping your car in good nick should help prevent having any major issues or moments of panic in the future. We’d always recommend you do a full car service regularly and stay on top of your car maintenance checklist.
Borrow a car while your car is in the garage
Need to drive somewhere while your car is getting serviced? You could borrow a friend or family member’s car using temporary car insurance. We’ll cover you from as little as one hour and you can be on the road in minutes. Plus, the car owner’s no claims bonus won’t be affected if you need to make a claim.