All These Dashboard Lights – Here’s What They Mean

Yes, your dashboard can speak to you – in symbols, and it is not necessarily a language you understand.

The communication happens as a warning when there is an issue with your car, or as an indication, to point out a feature you should know about. There are a vast number of these curious-looking indicators that can get illuminated, and they can vary depending on your car (American vs. European), covering a wide range of issues.

Chances are you have seen some of them many times, such as a Seat Belt Reminder Light, Door Ajar Light, or Fuel Indicator Symbol (if you like waiting until you are almost empty before you refill your tank), but there are many that will look like a puzzle – and some may indicate a serious malfunction.

Here are the meanings behind 10 dashboard lights and what they look like:

1. Engine Temperature Warning Light

This means that your engine is too hot – temperature has exceeded normal limits. Later model vehicles may have more than one type of engine temperature sensor installed.

2. Tire Pressure Warning Light

The pressure in one or more of your tires is too low. Some vehicles will allow manual reset of Tire Pressure Monitoring System warning light, while others require professional diagnosis.

3. Oil Pressure Warning

It means your engine is running low on oil, or there is a problem with your car’s oil pressure system.

4. Engine Warning

The engine computer has set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). Indicates that there is a problem with the vehicle’s engine, and usually requires diagnosis with a professional scan tool.

5. Battery Alert

The car’s voltage level is below normal, charging system is short of power, and you are running solely on battery.

6. Security Alert

If the light goes on temporarily, it may mean that the ignition switch is locked and you may need a key with the proper transponder to re-start. Or, there is something else wrong with your car’s anti-theft system – if the light stays on when the vehicle is on, it typically indicates a malfunction in the security system.

7. ESP Fault/Traction Control Malfunction

There is an issue with your anti-skid system/traction control or electronic stability system, and it may be shut off completely.

8. Anti Lock Brake Warning

Indicates that the Anti-Lock Brake computer has set a code and needs professional diagnosis.

9. Brake System

This symbol can mean one of the three conditions: parking brake is on; problem with the braking system/brake fluid is low, or ABS problem. Check brake fluid and make sure the parking brake is fully released. If the problem is in the ABS system, it may need a professional diagnosis.

10. Engine Start Operation Indicator

When Engine Start or Automatic Shift Lock symbol appears, it means you need to engage the brake, either to start your car’s ignition or to get it out of neutral.

Knowing what your dashboard is trying to communicate to you can help you realize it is time for a tune-up or maintenance and ensure your car is in top condition, and avert potential disasters. Do not ignore your dashboard lights, and be sure to consult your owner’s manual, as certain symbols may be different for your vehicle. As always, when in doubt, have an honest car mechanic check it out!

Our expert team at CNM Auto Repair is passionate about assisting our clients, so bring your Domestic, European, Japanese or Asian vehicle to our shop for auto repair or service and we will ensure it is performing optimally for years to come.

Contact our family owned and operated car repair shop in Lancaster PA shop for all your tune-up, alignment, and other car and light truck services – make an appointment with our expert auto mechanics today at (717) 397-1497.