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5 Dashboard Warning Lights Every Driver Should Recognize

Car interior with dashboard warning lights

Do you know what the different lights on your dashboard mean? It’s a good idea to be familiar with the most important ones so you know what to do if they come on. Here are five key dashboard warning lights and their meanings.

1. Check engine warning light
This yellow or orange engine-shaped icon indicates there’s a problem with the engine. This could be a minor issue such as a loose gas cap or a more serious problem such as a misfiring engine or failing spark plug. If your check-engine light flicks on, you should schedule an inspection right away.

2. Brake warning light
This red icon with an exclamation mark inside a circle indicates that there’s a problem with one of the brake components or that the hydraulic fluid has run dry. When this light turns on, you need to safely pull over and call a tow truck. It’s very risky to drive with a faulty brake system.

3. Engine temperature warning light
The engine temperature or coolant warning light shows a thermometer on top of two squiggly lines. It tells you that the engine is overheating. When this light flicks on, you should safely pull over and allow the engine to cool. Next, open the radiator cap very slowly, ensuring that there is no pressure build up, and check the coolant level. If it’s low, it may be a simple matter of topping up the fluid, or there may be a coolant leak. If your engine is so hot that it’s smoking, you’ll probably want to call a tow company rather then get back behind the wheel.

4. Battery warning light
This icon in the shape of a battery flicks on when your car’s battery is no longer able to recharge and is gradually draining. You may have a dead battery on your hands or an issue with the voltage regulator, alternator or electrical wiring. In any case, you’ll need to bring your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. If your battery drains before you get to the auto repair shop, you’ll need to jumpstart your car to get it going again.

5. Engine oil warning light
This icon, which looks a bit like a gravy boat, tells you that the engine oil is low or leaking. Without sufficient oil, your engine will be unable to remain properly lubricated. This can cause serious mechanical issues and lead to needing costly repairs. When you see this red icon light up on your dash, it’s important to stop operating the vehicle, and bring your car to the garage for an immediate check on the cause.

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