Dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree? It might be nothing, or it could be a sign that your car is in urgent need of some attention. It is important to know what the lights mean. Today we will explain car dashboard warning lights and give you some great information on what you need to do when you see one.
A round amber circle held within brackets, with the letters "ABS" in the centre.
Ever performed an emergency stop manoeuvre for real? Did you notice anything?
Chances are the car was juddering a lot. This is a safety feature called anti-lock braking… Or as it's more commonly known… 'ABS".
This feature releases the brakes just as they are about to start skidding… which reduces your stopping distance.
If this light is on, it means that your ABS isn't working, or to put it another way… Your car has an increased stopping distance. This could be the difference between you stopping safely or colliding with another vehicle!
An amber man seated with a 'beach ball' on his lap.
The airbag deploys in hard collisions protecting your head and face from impact with the wheel. It can be switched off if a child seat is placed in the front seat (in fact, it is recommended).
If this light is on and you haven't disarmed the airbag, it means that there is no protection and needs immediate attention.
An amber car battery, often with a plus or minus.
The car battery supplies all electrical power to the vehicle. The radio, the windows, the seat heating (ooh fancy!), the lights, everything!
Next to fuel, the car runs on electricity. This light means that the battery may not be holding its charge. Eventually, this may prevent you from starting your car. You can learn more about poorly performing batteries here.
A red, round symbol with an exclamation mark in the centre.
It is quite obvious. The brakes are responsible for holding your car or slowing it down. They are really important. It may simply mean that your handbrake has been left on… but it can also indicate that you've got a problem.
Runaway cars are really not a good thing. It is best to have this checked out as soon as possible.
This one is a little hard to explain… It looks like a little amber engine.
Most modern cars have engines controlled by a computer that sequences the valves, delivers fuel and monitors the entire health of the engine. This may come on for something as innocuous as an overdue service. However, it can often indicate bigger problems.
Most car handbooks will tell you to contact your dealer if this light is illuminated. Its presence means that something is wrong with the engine. By continuing to drive, you might risk completely destroying your engine… That's going to cost a lot to replace!
A little amber oil can with a drip
Oil is the lifeblood of an engine. It lubricates the entire thing and makes sure it runs smoothly.
No oil, low or high pressure or high oil temperature is a bad sign, and you don't need to drive for long before you risk permanently damaging your engine. If you see this light, be sure to check the oil and seek professional help.
A small red seated figure with a seatbelt crossing them.
Seatbelts are an important safety feature. Most modern cars will allow you to monitor if everyone is trapped in.
If you are burdened with the school run, this is a super important feature. It indicates that someone isn't buckled up… Many cars now have a permanent audio alarm that will sound until seatbelts are fastened properly.
One amber lights that looks like a little car skidding.
This system ensures that the car's trajectory is controlled and prevents individual wheels from losing their grip.
If you put your foot down in wet or slippery conditions, you may find that with traction control off, you can invoke a skid or spin very easily… Especially if you are used to driving with traction control on… If you have seen this light, check to see if you've inadvertently switched traction off!
An amber shaped 'U' with a textured bottom
TPMS monitors tyre pressures. This system tells you whether one (or all) of your wheels needs a top-up of air.
Running around on a flat tyre is no good. You risk increasing your stopping distance or a blowout. If you notice this light often, it may be time for a replacement. It can be much cheaper than you think to get a set of new tyres.
Most of the standard car dashboard warning lights are listed above. Still, they can have minor variations and triggers depending on the manufacturer. If in doubt, it is well worth checking your owner manual. If in doubt, seek professional help. Why not check our other blog posts where we go through some of the above systems like TPMS
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