Your vehicle’s dashboard is full of helpful lights that signal when your car is having a mechanical or safety-related issue, or when various features are in use. It’s important to pay attention to the color of each light, as that can indicate what your car’s onboard computer is trying to tell you. If it’s green or blue, it’s most likely showing that a system is turned on and operating. If it’s yellow or orange, it indicates some kind of problem that will need service soon. If it’s red or blinking, your car needs urgent service and you should bring it to a mechanic as soon as possible.
The lights on your dashboard are only helpful when you know what they mean. Below are some common dashboard lights, why they may be on, and what you should do about them. Some vehicles use different symbols or words on their dashboard, so consult your owner’s manual for the most accurate idea of your car’s dashboard lights.
Why it’s on: The check engine light can indicate a variety of things. It may be something as simple as a loose gas cap, or something as severe as a damaged transmission.
What you should do about it: If the check engine light is yellow and not blinking, start by checking your gas cap. You may need to tighten or replace it. If that doesn’t work, bring your car here, to Restored Auto, LLC. We can run a diagnostic test and locate the issue. Don’t wait too long to have your car serviced, as even minor problems can become major ones with time.
Why it’s on: The battery light can be an indicator that your battery is reaching the end of its life. There are a number of reasons it can turn on, including a weak charge, loose cables, or a factory defect. Batteries can also be affected by temperature changes, so a dead battery at the start of winter isn’t all that surprising.
What you should do about it: You can try giving your battery a jump start. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to have your battery checked or replaced. Bring your car by Restored Auto, LLC and we’ll take a look at your battery’s health to help you determine what your next step should be.
Why it’s on: Depending on when it turns on, your traction control light may be signaling unsafe road conditions. If your car detects a loss of traction, it’ll flash the traction control light as it tries to regain control. If it stays on or flickers at other times, it may indicate a problem with the traction control system.
What you should do about it: If your traction control light is signaling a problem, it’s best to have it examined by an experienced mechanic. As with all parts of your car, don’t wait too long to get it checked out. Traction control provides more safety while driving in slippery conditions, so it’s important to keep things in proper working order.
Why it’s on: If your engine temperature light comes on, there’s probably a problem with your cooling system. There could be a leak, a broken fan, a clogged hose, or a number of other problems.
What you should do about it: Unlike some of the other dashboard warnings, you absolutely cannot ignore a warning about your engine temperature. If the light comes on, pull over as soon as it’s safe and turn off your car. Don’t open the hood and poke around—you could risk burning yourself. It’s best to call roadside assistance and have your car towed to a local mechanic.
Why it’s on: Your tire pressure light will often turn on when the pressure in one or more of your tires is too low. This happens a lot in colder weather because cooler air takes up less volume.
What you should do about it: Fill your tires as soon as you can. Driving on poorly inflated tires can decrease your tires’ effectiveness and damage them, your suspension, and your vehicle alignment. If filling the tires does not solve the problem, have a mechanic inspect them for holes, nails, or other damage that may be causing a leak.
Why it’s on: If you see your transmission temperature light come on, it likely means the transmission fluid is overheating.
What you should do about it: While you can technically drive with the light on, it’s better to avoid doing so when possible. If you see this light turn on, pull over as soon as it is safe and allow your transmission to cool. You can check the level and color of your transmission to see if it has overheated (levels may be lower, and the color will be dark). Bring your car to Restored Auto, LLC, and we’ll check your transmission to see what’s going on. Transmission repairs can be pricey, so don’t delay on having your transmission checked if you see this warning.
Shift Brake Interlock
Why it’s on: Your brake shift interlock light may simply be signaling that you need to put your foot on the brake before shifting your car into gear. Brake shift interlock systems were developed to apply brakes when gear shifts occur in the event that a child accidentally switches gears. These systems have helped to prevent roll-away accidents. The light may turn on to indicate a problem with the interlock system, but most of the time, it just means you need to brake before you shift.
Anti-Lock Brake System
Why it’s on: Your anti-lock brake system is often connected to your traction control system. If it turns on, it may indicate a problem with fluid levels, speed sensors, or the break system itself.
What you should do about it: If you see your ABS light turn on, bring it in for service as soon as you can. As with any aspect of your car’s brakes, ABS is an important safety component, and if your car is equipped with it, you should keep it working properly.
Why it’s on: Not to be confused with an oil change reminder, the oil pressure light alerts you to a problem with your car’s oil. You may have a leak, dirty oil, or low oil pressure.
What you should do about it: Oil pressure isn’t something you want to ignore. Pull over when it’s safe and give your engine a chance to cool. Then, check your oil level and make sure it’s clean (dirty oil will be dark in color or sludgy in texture). If changing the oil doesn’t resolve the oil pressure light, bring your car by Restored Auto, LLC. We can check for any leaks or for damage on your oil pressure sensors.
Why it’s on: Newer cars come outfitted with a lane departure system to alert drivers when they are drifting out of the lane without a turn signal on. Typically, the light will flash, the car will vibrate, or both will happen. Some cars also have lane keeping systems to assist drivers by automatically steering the car back into the lane.
What you should do about it: If you notice a lane departure light on your dashboard, slowly correct your vehicle’s course. If the light continues to stay on, you may need to have a mechanic check the lane departure system to ensure everything is working.
Why it’s on: Your car’s power steering light will turn on to alert you that the power steering has failed. You should pull over when it is safe to do so and check your car.
What you should do about it: If you have a hydraulic power steering system, make sure the fluid levels are correct. If they are low, you can top it off with the fluid listed in your car’s manual. If you have an electric power steering system, check the battery connections, and try restarting your car to see if it helps. If neither of these solutions work, bring your car by Restored Auto, LLC. We’ll take a look and let you know if any repairs are needed.
Why it’s on: This symbol indicates that your fog lights are on. Not every vehicle comes with fog lights, but ones that do often have them lower than standard headlights so they can cut under the fog and illuminate the road. There isn’t usually a problem associated with this dashboard light, but you may not want to wear out the bulbs by leaving them on when you don’t need them.
Why it’s on: This light will turn on when either you or one of your passengers does not have the seatbelt properly fastened. There will also likely be a dinging sound to help remind you that you need a seatbelt.
What you should do about it: If all seatbelts are properly fastened and the light remains on, you probably have a loose connection. Bring your car to a mechanic for service.
Why it’s on: If this light appears on your dashboard, it means your windshield wiper fluid is low or empty.
What you should do about it: While you can drive without wiper fluid, it’s a good idea to fill it when needed. Driving without wiper fluid can lead to unsafe visibility. It is relatively easy to fill the fluid on your own. All you need to do is locate the reservoir and add wiper fluid through a funnel.
Why it’s on: For the most part, a cruise control light will indicate when you have activated the cruise control feature. It may also indicate that a speed has not yet been specified or that an issue has been detected.
What you should do about it: If your cruise control light is on because you have activated cruise control, there are no problems to be solved. If it’s on and is indicating a problem, however, you should bring it by Restored Auto, LLC. We’ll check your vehicle for any electrical problems, or other related issues, and help you get safely back on the road.
Though there are many dashboard warning lights in your car, you don’t need to be confused by them. While this list is not exhaustive, it should give you a good sense of some of the lights in your car that you’re more likely to see, and how to respond if you do see them.
If one or more of your dashboard lights has turned on because of a problem, bring your car by Restored Auto, LLC. We’ll run diagnostic testing, check fluid levels, and make any repairs necessary to get you safely back on the road.