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The warning lights on your dashboard are there to help prevent accidents and indicate an issue with the vehicle. Ignoring your dashboard warnings is a common bad habit many drivers get into but it could be costly. We agree when a warning light pops up it can be a worry but they are simply there to identify problems with the vehicle and you should have them rectified immediately. However, it’s not all doom and gloom and the car warning lights on your dashboard have different levels of severity. But what happens if a warning light comes up and you don’t know what it means? You can find out in your car’s owner’s manual or test your knowledge with the most common dashboard warning lights below!

What do warning lights on your dashboard mean? 

Before we delve into the most common car dashboard warning lights below, it’s worth knowing how severe they are. Each warning light uses a traffic light colour system to indicate how serious it is.

Red – A serious problem with the vehicle and you should stop driving as soon as it is safe.

Yellow – Take care when driving and have the problem looked at because something is not working as expected.

Green – The function is working as it should or is in use.

notify on car dashboard

Most common car dashboard warning lights:

Below is a list of the most common dashboard warning lights on cars in the UK. If you don’t see the symbol you’re looking for, please refer to your car’s owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer. 

Brake warning light

car brake warning light

The Brake Warning Light on your vehicle can mean a number of things. It is known as the brake system warning light, brake fluid warning light or the parking brake warning light. This dashboard warning light may be illuminated when you release the parking brake, or think you have and indicate the parking brake has not been fully released. Simply, make sure the parking brake is all the way down and the light should disappear. If it comes on when you’re driving it could mean the brake fluid level is low. If this warning is accompanied by a similar symbol with the letters ‘ABS’ (Anti-Lock Braking System) in the middle, it can mean the braking system has failed. In most cases, you can still continue your journey but the warning light should be checked soon.  

Battery charge warning light

battery charge light

When the battery charge warning light is illuminated, it could mean the battery charge is low or there is a problem with the battery. Your car may not start if the battery is flat or you could be driving and this light may not go away. If the light does not go away, it can indicate the battery will fail soon so it can be best to get to a garage as soon as you can before you’re stuck! 

Engine management light

engine management light

The engine management light is the car dashboard warning light that all drivers dread. It is very much an umbrella term for a whole range of engine problems, ranging from minor to very serious issues. When this light is illuminated there can be another warning such as stuttering when you press the accelerator or lack of power. You should not continue to drive if this warning light comes on your dashboard and have it checked immediately. 

Oil pressure warning.

oil pressure light indicator

One of the more serious warning lights on the car dashboard is the oil warning light. It indicates there could be a leak, a fault, or too much or too little oil in the system which can lead to serious engine damage. This warning light should not be ignored and be addressed straightaway. It can be as simple as topping up the engine oil bt if the fault does not go away, it can indicate a more serious issue. 

Engine temperature warning light.

engine temperature warning light

The engine temperature warning light can also be known as the coolant temperature warning light and is pretty self-explanatory. When it appears it means the engine is overheating and coolant levels may be low. If left unattended, it can lead to serious irreparable damage and high repair costs. You should stop straight away and wait until the engine has cooled. It usually takes around 30 minutes for the engine to cool and you can then check if the coolant needs topping up. If not, it may be a job for the professionals. 

Tyre pressure warning.

tyre pressure warning light on dashboard

Knowing how to check your tyre pressure is very important and underinflated tyres can cause many issues, not only that but it is also very dangerous! Most modern cars come with this feature to warn the driver when the tyre pressure is low and needs to be adjusted. You should correct the tyre pressure at your earliest convenience and if the warning light on your dashboard does not go away, it could indicate a leak in the tyre somewhere. 

Traction control warning.

traction control symbol on dashboard

This symbol looks like a car on a slippery road which gives a hint to what the symbol means. The traction and stability control light will activate when driving in wintery conditions and if you lose your grip on the road. The light will activate to tell you the feature is in place to prevent you from losing grip. However, if this symbol appears all the time whilst driving it can indicate a problem. 

Low fuel levels.

low fuel levels

Easy enough, the low fuel indicator means you are running low on petrol or diesel. Your car may also show how many miles you have left before the tank is empty. You should head to top up your vehicle with petrol or diesel as soon as you can. If you want to reduce your fuel consumption, you could consider a higher MPG car

Brake pad warning light.

brake pad monitoring light

The brake pad warning light on your dashboard indicates when your brake pads are too thin. This light should come on before the pads are dangerously thin so it gives you some time to get them changed by a verified garage. 

Learn more in our ‘how to…’ guides.

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