Common Dashboard Warnings
While not every vehicle has the same set of warning lights, there are numerous common dashboard lights that you’ll see in various makes and models throughout the auto industry. Pay attention to the following dashboard warnings, since they indicate that your vehicle isn’t running as it should, and bring your vehicle into your mechanic if you notice any alarms.
Check Engine Light: Your check engine light can be triggered from a variety of sources. Since this diagnostic component of your vehicle checks numerous engine components and operations, you’ll have to perform a diagnostic test to determine the source of the problem. It’s likely that you’ll have to bring your auto into the shop to assess the issue at hand.
Battery/Electrical Light: A battery indicator may click on if your battery isn’t holding a charge, if your alternator isn’t operating as it should, or if you have another electrical issue. If this is the case, you should check the charge of your battery, and take a look at your alternator and alternator belt. You may need to replace your battery, clean and secure its connections, or repair or replace the alternator.
Coolant Temperature Light: Your temperature light may blink on if your car is overheating and the coolant is too hot. Take a look at your temperature gage to see if you are redlining your vehicle — if the gage shows that the temperature is at or above the red line, you should pull over and kill the engine immediately, to prevent causing any damage to the engine. You may have low amounts of coolant in your radiator, or you may have a blockage, leak, fan problems, or another cooling system issue. If you can’t locate the source of the problem yourself, we’d be happy to take a look.
Transmission Temperature Light: Like the coolant temperature indicator on your dash, the transmission temperature indicator will blink on if the transmission of your vehicle is too hot for safe operation. You may have low transmission fluid in the system, or you may have transmission fluid that is gunked up. You may also have low coolant levels in your cooling system. When this happens, heat will build up within your transmission, which can create further problems and cause irreparable damage to the transmission itself. Again, it’s best to pull over and kill the engine of your vehicle if this indicator flips on while you’re on the road.
Oil Pressure Light: Your vehicle may have an oil pressure sensor that will relay whether or not your vehicle has enough oil in the engine to operate safely. If you have a leak, you’ll lose oil pressure, triggering the oil pressure light. Since oil is the lifeblood of your vehicle, keeping components from grinding against one another and reducing friction, it is crucial to add oil to your engine right away if you get a warning. You should also have your engine checked for any leaks, since this is likely the source of the problem.
Oil Service Light: Over time, your engine oil will break down and gunk up. That’s why it’s imperative to have your oil changed at regular intervals, in order to keep things running smoothly. Some vehicles are outfitted with an oil service sensor which will monitor either the mileage on your vehicle or other sensors in the engine control module (ECM). The oil service sensor is designed to turn on when it is time for an oil change. If you don’t have an oil service light, you should consult your owner’s manual for oil service interval recommendations. If your light comes on, it’s time to bring your vehicle into the shop for an oil change and an oil service sensor reset.
Service Vehicle Light: Your service vehicle light is an indicator that something is wrong with one of the electrical components of your vehicle. You may have a light that is out (including your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, or even your hazard lights). You may also have issues with the traction control of your vehicle. Or you may have interrupted communication between components of the body control module (BCM) of your vehicle. If you can’t locate the issue yourself, a quick diagnostic and inspection should reveal the source of the issue at hand.
Tire Pressure Light: Many modern car makes and models come with tire pressure sensors that can be triggered if the pressure of any of your tires dips too low. This is usually an easy fix — you may just need to add some air to a tire or two — but it may also be an indication that one of your tires is leaking. Perform a tire pressure check on your tires (tires have a recommended pressure level printed on the rubber of the tire), and make sure all of your tires are within the recommended range. If you can’t get the tire pressure light to turn off on your own, then bring it in to an auto shop.
Brake Light: Your brake light indicator may switch on if you’re having an issue with your brake system. In these instances, you may have one or more of several problems. You may have low levels of brake fluid in your brake lines, you may have an issue with the anti-lock brake system (ABS), or you may have your parking brake on still. If your parking brake isn’t fully released, simply pull it up, and try to release it again. If the brake light remains on, you’ll need a diagnostic check.
Reduced Engine Power Light: If your engine isn’t getting the power that it needs, you could notice that your car doesn’t have the get-up it should when you push the gas pedal. If that’s the case, you could have an issue with any number of systems in your vehicle. You could have a faulty ignition system, a problem with the fuel system, an emissions problem, transmission issues, clutch problems, or other issues that result in this error display. It’s likely that you’ll have to bring your car in for a diagnostic test.