As you turn the key in your car’s ignition or press the start button to start your car, different colors and lights will briefly illuminate your dashboard for a few seconds, indicating that the related system is operating normally. But some might stay illuminated for a longer period indicating a problem or reflecting a situation.
Some symbols are pretty self-explanatory (like if you haven't fastened up your seatbelt or closed the door properly), others can be a little harder to understand, as they can also seem a bit worrying, especially if they kept on blinking.
In this article, we're going to explain what 6 most common car dashboard warning symbols mean and what you can do.
Bear in mind that your car's warning lights can differ in appearance and color depending on the model and manufacturer of your vehicle. Whenever in doubt, it's always a good idea to check your owner's manual.
Red, Yellow, Green, What Do These Colors Even Mean?
When it lights up, it is always a good idea to note the symbol's color. This can also provide you with an idea of how bad the issue is.
Your dashboard warning lights follows a similar pattern as the traffic light system:
- Green or blue: the system is operating normally or currently is in use.
- Yellow or orange: something is not working quite normally. Take extra care and precaution, and have it checked out as soon as possible.
- Red: the system might be facing a serious issue and potentially a dangerous problem. Stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so and have it checked before proceeding with your journey.
Now, Let’s Talk About Symbols!
Spare yourself from getting confused and learn about the most common dashboard warning symbols and their meanings.
1. Engine Temperature Symbol:
Engine temperature symbol, also known as the coolant temperature light, has a thermometer-shaped symbol.
Usually it illuminates to indicate that your engine is not at its ideal temperature, a problem with the coolant level, or even a sign for a larger problem, like a head gasket failure.
If you were wondering whether to continue driving or to stop, check the color of the symbol, if the symbol is illuminated in blue, it means that the engine temperature is too cold. Typically it will turn off after a minute or so, once your engine warms up to the right temperature.
But when the symbol is illuminated in red, it means the engine is overheated. So rather than risking it, pull over to a safe location and call for help.
2. Oil Pressure Symbol:
The oil pressure symbol, also known as the low engine oil or low oil pressure light, has an old-fashioned oil can symbol.
When this light is on, it's warning you that you're running low on oil, your engine oil temperature is extremely hot, or that your oil pump isn't performing well.
It is important to act quickly, as it can cause expensive and even irreparable engine damage if the oil wasn’t lubricating your engine effectively!
When the symbol light is on, stop driving when it is safe to do so and turn off the engine. Let your engine cool down, look under your car for any oil leaks, and check your oil level. Top off your oil to its recommended level if needed.
If the light still persists, have it checked by a professional to fix the underlying problems.
3. Brake Pad Symbol:
Brake pad symbol, also known as brake pad wear warning lights, has a yellow circle with 3 dashed lines on both sides of the circle symbol. It is a fairly new addition to modern cars and usually found in higher end cars.
When this indicator is on, it means that your vehicle brake pads are too thin and about to worn out. It usually gives you an early warning indication to prevent any damages.
You can safely continue on driving for a short amount of time, but remember to have it replaced as soon as possible by the mechanic for an ultimate safe drive.
4. Battery Alert Symbol:
The battery alert symbol, also known as the battery charge light or battery charging system light, has a lego shaped symbol.
This symbol usually indicates an issue with the vehicle’s battery charging system.
If this light is on before you start driving, it indicates that the battery is not charged, and you must charge it.
If the light comes on while driving, it means that the battery is not charging. This could be due to an electrical system malfunction with your car and it could have many causes, such as a defective alternator, faulty battery, poor electrical connection, or worn cabling.
Your car will continue to work normally until the battery is dead. And when drained, your car will stop operating! That's why it is important to get professional help before it runs out of charge.
5. Fuel Level Symbol:
Fuel level symbol, also known as low-fuel light or low-fuel level lights, has a yellow fuel pump station symbol.
This warning light lights up when the amount of fuel in your tank reaches a certain level. It's designed to give you enough warning to find a gas station.
In most cars, it usually turns on when you have enough fuel for an average between 50 kilometers to 100 kilometers.
Running on low fuel is extremely risky! You don’t want your car to stop operating in the middle of the road, as it can lead to collisions and accidents. Reach out to the nearest gas station and have it filled.
6. Tire Pressure Symbol:
The tire pressure symbol, also known as low tire pressure light or tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) symbol, has a yellow exclamation point between brackets symbol.
This symbol shows that the pressure of one or more tires is either too low or too high and must be addressed. A normal tire pressure should be between 30 and 35 psi (pounds per square inch).
Driving on low or high-pressure tires is unsafe, as it can affect a safe braking system! A sudden pressure drop can lead to a dangerous tire blow-out at high speed.
Try to avoid a harsh brake or to make any violent steering maneuvers, and head to the nearest workshop to have the pressure level fixed or have the tire replaced if it needs to.