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What those warning lights on the car dashboard mean

Red warning signs are often the most serious and should be dealt with almost immediately, as this can indicate a safety issue or serious mechanical problem.
Red warning signs are often the most serious and should be dealt with almost immediately, as this can indicate a safety issue or serious mechanical problem.
Image: 123rf/shutter999

We all know one of those "I know my car" people, you know the friend that drives their car with a warning light flashing on the dashboard. Perhaps that friend is you, but if you’re not one of them here’s a guide as to what that flashing warning light on your dashboard really means.  

According to Barend Smit, marketing director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options, red warning signs are often the most serious and should be dealt with almost immediately, as this can indicate a safety issue or serious mechanical problem.

The yellow warning signs usually indicate that a car service or vehicle maintenance is needed. However, if a yellow warning light flashes, it should be attended to immediately. Lastly green and blue dashboard lights usually simply let the driver know that a system is active and working.

Smit reminds readers that it’s important to consult your owner’s manual for an explanation, too. 

Here's what the lights mean:                                                                         

Red warning lights: Serious and should be looked at ASAP

  • Check engine light: This light warns of any engine-related issues and can include something as small as a loose cap or something more important like a misfire.

 

  • Temperature warning light: Usually looks like a thermometer with wavy lines underneath it. This light is a serious warning, as it indicates your engine is overheating and there could be a cooling problem.
  • Oil warning light: This indicates low oil pressure, which means there is not enough oil in your engine to lubricate all moving parts. Generally, if this light comes on you should turn your engine off to prevent damage from occurring.
  • Brake warning light: The brake warning light could easily be one of the most important warning lights that should be looked at right away, as it indicates something is wrong with your brakes or braking system, and could cause you to have trouble stopping your vehicle.

 

  • Battery charging light: This light indicates something is wrong with your charging system and your battery could be in critically low condition. It’s important to get your battery checked.

Orange warning lights: Car maintenance

  • Tyre pressure warning light: Not all vehicles have this warning light, mostly newer vehicles have this warning symbol. The tyre marked symbol indicates that not all tyres are at the same pressure or at the minimum requirements of tyre pressure.

 

  • ABS (anti-lock braking system) warning light: If this light appears on your dashboard, it indicates that your anti-skid braking system has failed and you should brake cautiously until the problem has been attended to.

Green and blue lights: Not problematic

  • Cruise control light: This light is indicated as a small speedometer with an arrow, to indicate that cruise control is activated at a permanent speed, until the driver disables it.

 

  • Auto engine start light: This light looks like a shoe that has been tilted at a 45-degree angle and indicates the engine will auto start again once you take your foot off the brake or clutch.

Smit ends of by saying that owners need to ensure that their car services and vehicle maintenance are up to date to avoid encountering problems.

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