Simple guide to dashboard lights
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Automotive technology is developing at an incredible pace. With autonomous driving, safety and emission advancements constantly on the move, new cars are fitted with a mind-boggling array of electronic and mechanical systems.
With these new systems comes an abundance of new dashboard warning lights.
Most motorists will have a fair idea of what their dashboard warning lights look like, but do you know what they all mean? And more importantly, what to do if they start blinking at you?
Engine oil pressure or level warning light
The “old school oil can” light can be one of two things; either the engine oil is running a little low, or the engine has lost oil pressure. If you run low on engine oil, it will starve the engine resulting in no lubrication and damaging the internals.
The same applies if you lose oil pressure — it’s like your heart’s not pumping blood around the body.
If this light illuminates, we recommend pulling over and calling for assistance.
Engine check lamp
The “engine check” light is one of the most commonly seen dashboard warning lamps as it lights up for any faults related to your Engine Control Unit (ECU), engine or exhaust system.
Depending on the issue, the car may still drive perfectly but you should get it diagnosed as soon as possible.
While it may not point to a specific fault, a technician can run a diagnostic check to retrieve a fault code and then inform the best method of repair.
Engine temperature indication lamps
These lights are now more commonly replacing the traditional temperature gauge.
The blue light usually illuminates when the vehicle temperature is cold or warming up, and switches off once the correct operating temperature has been reached.
If the symbol is illuminated red or blinking, it’s indicating that the cooling system is above the desired temperature threshold and you must stop.
Continuing to drive could cause the engine to overheat and potentially result in an expensive repair bill.
The seriousness of the fault often depends on the colour of the light and the symbol it's illuminating. Just like traffic lights, red means stop, orange is caution, and green is go.
A red warning light needs immediate attention, while orange or yellow may mean you need to head down to your local garage and have the problem sorted by a professional.
A green or blue light can mean a system or function is active or operating.
Either way, try not to panic and pull over somewhere safe to take a moment to find out what the light is telling you.
Although some warning symbols like those above are universal and common in most makes and models, there are also manufacturer specific warnings.
In these instances, it pays to check your manual or handbook, which should offer vehicle specific information about its warning lights.
Whether it’s a simple reminder to “buckle up” or an engine issue best left to the professionals, dashboard warning symbols should never be ignored.
Regular servicing is the best way to keep those warning lights on your dashboard from making frequent appearances.