If a dashboard warning light has you reaching for the car owner's manual, you're not alone. According to one survey, 1 in 5 motorists admit to ignoring these car warning lights. Many because they don't know what they mean..
- As a general rule of thumb, if you see a red warning light it means that your car needs immediate attention
- A brake warning light or temperature warning light means you might need to call your breakdown cover provider
- Amber or yellow lights indicate that something is amiss, but it's not an immediate problem. However, it's safest to get the problem checked out by a professional
According to reports, 46% of drivers ignore dashboard warning lights and 19% will continue to use the car for up to three days before doing anything about it, even when the light is red.
Even though they're supposed to be a safety feature, dashboard warning lights can be quite confusing. It can be difficult to understand which light means what. It may also be possible that too many dashboard distractions is affecting your driving ability.
Depending on how modern your car is, there can be over 50 different dashboard warning lights for you to get to grips with. Some will flash on when you start the car and then disappear. Others will stay on when in use, such as the headlights or the fuel warning light.
What action you take will depend on the light that switches on and the severity of the colour attached to the icon.
Red, amber, green – what does it all mean?
As a general rule of thumb, if you see a red warning light it means that your car needs immediate attention.
Pull over when it's safe to do so and if you don't recognise the warning light, look through your owner's handbook or refer to the manufacturer's website.
If the light is just showing that your screen wash is low or your oil needs topping up, then this is something you can sort out at the next service station.
If it's something more serious, such as a brake warning light or temperature warning light then you may need to call your breakdown cover provider for help.
Amber or yellow lights indicate that something is amiss, but it's not an immediate problem. However, it's safest to get the problem checked out by a professional.
Green (and sometimes blue) lights generally just indicate that a feature of the car is turned on and running. For example, your full beam indicator usually glows blue to show you've got it flicked on.
Important dashboard warning lights to look out for
Engine warning lightIf this light stays on after starting the engine, get your car checked immediately, even if the car feels normal to drive. It indicates that there's something wrong with the engine and if you continue to drive around you might cause extensive and expensive damage.
Oil pressureOil is essential to lubricate the engine and help it run smoothly. If there's too little oil in the system or if the oil pressure drops it can cause huge damage to the engine. Stop and check the oil gauge. If the level is low, it may just need topping up, but if the lights stays on after you've topped up the oil, then it indicates a more serious problem.
Temperature warning lightIf your engine overheats it could lead to an engine failure if you carry on driving. Stop and let the car cool down and check your coolant levels. It may be that you've just run out of coolant, but you may find there's a leak in the system that needs attention.
Brake systemIf you see this light come on, don't take any chances and pull over as soon as it's safe to do so. It's obviously dangerous to drive without your brakes working properly and this light indicates a problem. You may also find that the brakes feel 'spongy' and you need to push down harder to get a response. Stop as soon as possible and call your breakdown professional.
The battery charge light indicates that the battery isn't charging properly. This could cause problems with the power steering, failing headlights and other features that need electricity to operate properly. Get the battery checked over by a professional mechanic to avoid breaking down and getting stranded.
Please check your car manual if you're unsure what your car warning lights mean.
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