What Do Your Car Dashboard Lights Mean?

Car dashboard lights identify vehicle safety features such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and tracks fluid levels for oil, water and coolant. These are distinguished by individualized symbols. Sometimes you see them light up upon start up or while driving. But what do your car dashboard lights mean?

These dashboard lights are indicators often represented as hieroglyphic-like symbols. You can consider them a diagnostic tool. They alert you that something could be wrong with your car. If unattended, the issue could pose a serious problem for your vehicle in the future. That is why they are often referred to as car warning lights.

But many car owners don’t know what these vehicle symbols mean. When people buy cars, how many will actually take the time to read the automobile manual that comes along with it? So when the dashboard indicators start blinking, they can’t make heads or tails of what the lights are trying to tell them. It certainly is not a good sign if all warning lights come on while driving.

As responsible vehicle owners, you have to know what your car dashboard lights mean so you can take the necessary action right away and avoid a potential accident or breakdown. When these dashboard lights are flashing, consider them as an alarm bell going off. You have to take action as soon as possible.

The longer you put it off, the greater the risk of getting into an accident and the higher the probability of incurring an expensive repair bill if the issue becomes worse.

Dashboard light symbols may vary from one car model or brand to another. But the differences may be slight. You should still be able to identify the dashboard light symbol and know why it is flashing.

Here are 10 common car dashboard light symbols and what they mean:

1. Brake System Warning Light

Your brakes are one of the most important components of your car. If the brake system warning light on your dashboard starts flashing it could mean there is a potential issue with your brakes or it could simply mean you need to replenish brake fluid.

The only solution is to head off to the nearest gasoline station or car repair shop and have it checked. This is one warning light that you should not procrastinate about.

2. Engine Warning Light

When your car dashboard’s engine warning light illuminates, it may be immediately followed by troubling symptoms. In some brands, the car automatically reduces its power as a contingency measure to protect itself from further damage.

You might hear a stuttering sound as you press on the accelerator which could be the result of a misfire. Another possibility could be a minor faulty electrical sensor. But never disregard that the issue could result in a larger mechanical problem.

If you see the engine warning light blinking, bring your car to the mechanic right away. Do not take chances by driving it out on the road.

3. Airbag Warning Light

The airbag is one of the automobile industry’s most innovative features. Advances in engineering have introduced better models that better ensure driver and passenger safety.

But if your dashboard airbag warning light comes on, it may not deploy when you get involved in a serious vehicular accident. You cannot predict when an accident will happen so it is always best to be prepared.

Second, a defective airbag may go off when you least expect it and put you, your passengers, pedestrians and other cars on the road at risk.

Bottom-line: Have your airbag checked by the car dealer or a mechanic before proceeding to your journey.

4. Power Steering Warning Light

Power steering makes it easier to manoeuvre the car while driving. But if the dashboard power steering warning light goes off, you may feel a sudden stiffness in its handling.

This poses a danger on the road when you have to change lanes in high speed motorways or move to avoid an obstacle in a potentially dangerous situation.

5. Coolant Warning Light

Your car’s engine needs coolant to keep from overheating. Usually when the dashboard coolant warning light comes on, it could simply mean your coolant fluid levels are down. If you are adept at troubleshooting and have a supply of coolant in your home or in the trunk, you can do the refill yourself.

Otherwise, head off to the nearest gas station and have the attendant check your coolant levels and have it refilled right away.

6. Oil Warning Light

Your car’s engine needs oil to keep it lubricated. The oil pump sprays fluid to different areas of the engine. If the dashboard oil warning light comes on, it could mean oil temperature could be too high, the level of fluid is low or oil pressure has dropped.

Under any of these 3 conditions, the quality of lubrication will be affected and could lead to engine damage that would put a hole in your wallet. Thus, when you the oil warning light blinking, bring your car to the mechanic immediately.

7. Tyre Pressure Warning Light

This dashboard light is no longer limited to high-end luxury cars. Most brands carry it as a standard safety features for all their models.

No one wants to deal with a flat tyre situation whether they are still parked in their garage or in the middle of nowhere. The dashboard tyre pressure warning light will tell you right away that one, a few or even all of your tyres are under-pressurized.

When this light comes on, have your tyres checked and fixed right away.

8. Battery Charge Warning Light

When you start your car, it is standard operation for your battery charge warning light to illuminate. However if it stays lit up for several minutes after your car has started, it could indicate a problem in your electrical system.

Possible reasons could be a weak car battery, a faulty alternator, a bad connection or damage to the cabling set up near the engine bay. If the alternator is not charging the battery efficiently, your car could suddenly come to a dead stop while driving.

Don’t take further chances when the dashboard battery charge warning light goes on. Contact a car battery dealer to test your battery and have it replaced if it is underpowered.

9. Electronic Stability or Traction Control Warning Light

This type of warning light is particularly important during inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow when roads become slippery.

When this dashboard light is blinking, the first thing to do is to slow down. Second, have it checked by a trusted mechanic or car repair shop.

10. Seatbelt Warning Light

There’s a reason why cities pass laws mandating the use of seatbelts at all times. As the car owner, you should see to it that all of your passengers are strapped into their seats. This is especially true for those in the back seat.

When the dashboard seatbelt warning lights come on, exercise your right as the car owner and ask the person to belt up properly.


Car dashboard lights maybe small but they play a big and important role in ensuring driving safety and the proper maintenance of your vehicle. Once a symbol on the dashboard lights up, don’t assume it is “nothing” or “unimportant” that you could attend to it later.

Driving a car carries a huge responsibility because your safety, those of your passengers and others who share the road with you are literally in your own hands.

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About the Author Jeff

Hey, I'm Jeff, thanks for visiting my website! I have been obsessed with LED light bars ever since they came out and over the last couple of years I have been testing and reviewing LED light bars. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch by clicking on our contact page.

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