What do warning lights on a dashboard mean?

Warning lights on a dashboard

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Every year, the workshops nationwide are visited by thousands of car owners who have overlooked the fact that one of the warning lights on a dashboard has been lighting up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing when a warning light lights up, but it can get serious if you ignore the warning and just keep going.

A vehicle is equipped with many different warning lights, all indicating that something is wrong with the vehicle. Some warning lights may light up yellow/orange as well as red.

If a warning light is yellow or orange, it indicates that you need to pay attention to a possible error and stop the vehicle. Check the fault and ensure that your vehicle is brought to the workshop in the foreseeable future. However, if the warning light lights up red, you should stop immediately and remedy the situation.

Pay attention to warning lights on a dashboard

Phrases such as “all red lights have lit up” or “he had overlooked all the warning lights” are unhelpful when it is your vehicle.

Of course, when a warning light lights up, it can be an error that is easy to fix, but who wants to take the risk and just keep driving, even though there may be something wrong with the car.

Most vehicle owners are reasonable enough not to drive on and go to a workshop to have the error checked, but it turns out that there are still many car owners who simply ignore the warning lights.

If you are part of this second group, it can cost you dearly. That is why other workshops in the country are also calling for caution in terms of control and warning lights. If a warning light lights up, stop the vehicle before it is too late.

The most important warning lights on the dashboard are also the most dangerous

Not all warning lights in your vehicle have the same meaning. If you sort the luminaires according to their importance, it is the oil and engine lights that you have to react immediately when they light up. If you ignore the warnings of these lights, you risk breaking the engine because it lacks engine oil, for example.

The workshops participating in Autobutler generally state that they receive many requests from vehicle owners whose engine lights are lit. A motor lamp that glows orange indicates a serious error, as this means that the engine is running in emergency mode. As a motorist, you should therefore take this warning seriously.

If you ignored the warning light and the engine failed, you must expect that this will not be covered by the warranty, as you, as the driver, caused the damage yourself, as the insurance language states.

Therefore, it is not only the warning lights that can turn red – you, as a driver, can also turn red with anger if something breaks and you end up with a workshop bill of several hundred euros.

How many warning lights are there?

Today, modern vehicles have a variety of warning lights that tell the driver, for example, that a door is not closed correctly, that the rain sensor is not working properly, or that the air pressure of the tires needs to be checked.

Some vehicles have more than 30 warning lights and the many lights certainly contribute to greater road safety. However, as a driver, it can also be difficult to keep track of the various warning lights. A British study has shown that 98% of all drivers surveyed did not even know the warning lights that are most common. Fortunately, this only applies in England, but the trend is probably also transferable to vehicle owners in any country. Because if you are not an experienced motorist, the warning lights can quickly cause confusion.

At the same time, the many warning lights can also make the driver immune, as many of the lights do not necessarily indicate that something serious is wrong with the vehicle. Even if a light lights up, you can usually continue driving, which is why the flashing warning lights are becoming less and less noticed. However, when a warning light lights up indicating a fatal error, it is often not responding in time.

If you do not keep track of the various warning lights, this can have catastrophic consequences. The most important rule when lighting a warning light is therefore to check the meaning of the warning light first in the manual before continuing. If the lamp lights up red, you need to stop as soon as possible.

Follow these three tips and avoid serious problems

  1. Use your vehicle’s manual and remember the most important symbols. Always carry the manual with you in the vehicle so that you can use it as a “reference book”. 
  2. As long as the lights are yellow or orange, you should check if you can continue. However, you should soon have your vehicle checked in a workshop. 
  3. If either the engine or oil light lights up red, you should immediately drive to the roadside and call the roadside assistance.

The most important warning lights on a dashboard

Are you one of the motorists who are pondering the importance of the various warning lights? Then we have listed the most important warning lights for you.

Some of these lights indicate how serious the detected error is via different colors. For example, an ignored yellow warning light may turn red at a later time if you have not observed it.

Basically, the colors have the following meaning:

Red: Stop the car as soon as possible and turn off the engine. Follow the instructions in the manual. If you have any doubts, call the roadside assistance.

Yellow: Action is required. Stop the vehicle and turn off the engine. Follow the instructions in the manual – in most cases you will still be able to drive to the nearest workshop.

Green: These lights are only for the information of the driver and do not require any action from your side.

 Handbrake light
When the handbrake light flashes, check if you have released the handbrake. Even if the handbrake is no longer on, it may either have been fixed or brake fluid may need to be refilled or the brake brake sbrakes may be worn out.
 The motor temperature is too high
The motor may be overheated. One possible cause is that there is too little cooling fluid. Stop the car and check if coolant needs to be refilled.
 Belt control light
The symbol with a seatbelt – one or more of the passengers have not strapped on. The lamp goes off when all passengers are strapped on.
A symbol with an oil can – there is no engine oil or the oil pressure is too low. Stop as soon as possible! Check the oil level after 10 minutes. To do this, the vehicle must be on a flat surface. If oil needs to be refilled, you can read in the manual which oil needs to be used. Refill oil and start the engine for a maximum of 5 seconds. When the lamp goes out, you can go to a workshop. If the light continues to light, you must call the breakdown service.
The icon with a battery – there are problems with the power supply. One reason may be that the car battery stops working. Drive directly to a workshop. When the light is lit, several of the vehicle’s electronic safety devices may be out of service.
 Braking system
The brake symbol – is the handbrake tightened? It may also be because one or more errors have occurred within the braking system. For more information, see the manual.
 ESP – Electronic Stability Program, ESC – Traction Control
The ESP icon lights up when the vehicle’s electronic stability program actively intervenes. This usually happens on wet and slippery roads. Drive carefully, avoid jerky braking and take your foot off the accelerator pedal to slow down.
Tire pressure sensor – this symbol indicates that the air pressure in the car tire must be controlled.
 Airbag/Belt Tensioner
Error in the airbag and belt tensioner system – the front airbag of the passenger is deactivated. This may be the case if there is a child seat in the passenger seat. Have a mechanic verify that the system is working properly.
Motor symbol – this symbol indicates to the driver an error of the engine. If the light is orange, go straight to a workshop where a mechanic can read out and correct the error via the on-board computer. The icon lights up red. Stop the car and call the roadside aid!
ABS symbol – this symbol indicates to the driver an ABS and/or ESP system error. In most cases, the brakes work even if the anti-blocking system (ABS) and/or ESP have an error. You will still be able to drive to the nearest workshop to have the error fixed.
 Brake linings
Brake symbol – the brake pads are worn and the brake pads of the vehicle must be renewed. You can still drive with the vehicle, but the brake pads must be replaced immediately.

Check the manual’s list of warning lights on the dashboard

The warning lights on the dashboard can vary depending on the model and vintage – so always refer to the manual for a comprehensive overview of the warning lights in your vehicle.

How much will the car repair cost?

The prices for car repairs vary greatly and depend on which part of your car needs to be repaired, whether spare parts need and need to be installed and, of course, how many hours the car mechanics need for the repair. Since many vehicle owners lack technical knowledge about their car, they often cannot estimate how much a repair will cost them, which components of the car need to be changed and how they are related.