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Car dashboard warning lights: a guide

Car dashboard warning lights: a guide

If there’s a light flashing on your dashboard, it’s a sure sign that something is amiss with your car. Here’s the lowdown on what some common warning lights could mean.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
minute read
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Posted 15 JANUARY 2020

The brake system warning light

This warning light can be the most worrying. The light may indicate something minor, like the fact that your parking brake hasn’t been fully released, or it may indicate something more severe, such as running low on brake fluid or a worn-out brake pad that needs replacing. 

The engine warning light

If this light turns on, it indicates that there’s something wrong with your engine. The problem may be to do with a small electrical fault or you could be dealing with a much bigger mechanical issue. Either way, it’s worth a trip to the mechanic to get it fixed. 

The coolant warning light

Tells you it’s time to refill your coolant. Coolant is responsible for keeping the temperature in your engine at a manageable level. Without it, your engine can quickly overheat, which could cause long-term damage if left unchecked. 

The battery warning light

This light always turns on when you start your engine and should disappear shortly thereafter. If it doesn’t, your car’s electrical system may need some attention. This is something you’ll want to get checked out as it could lead to a break down. The most likely culprit is a bad connection, which is a quick fix. However, other causes include a faulty alternator, a damaged or old battery that needs replacing or damaged cabling. 

The oil light

Most people will recognise the oil warning light. However, few will realise just how important it is. Neglecting to refill the oil in your car can cause extensive damage. Plus, the light could be a sign that your oil pressure is too low – a problem that you’ll need to fix as soon as possible.

The tyre pressure light

Not all cars will have the TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System) feature. But if yours does, it will tell you when your tyre pressure isn’t quite right. It could also be a sign of a puncture. 

The power steering warning light

Your power steering warning light may also be accompanied with other worrying symptoms, such as a stiffer steering wheel. The most common reason for this light to be on is that you’re low on power steering fluid and need a top-up. However, it may also be a sign of a more pressing issue. Check your fluid levels, and if they’re normal, head to a garage for help. 

If your car is still under warranty, it’s worth checking what you might be covered for, in the event that you need to get a warning light seen to.

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