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Dashboard Lights Explained

Many of us have been there. You are on the way to work or out for that weekend drive when suddenly a light appears on the dash. You don't know if you should stop, go to a garage or simply top up a fluid reservoir of some description. The thing is, this light has appeared for a reason and they should never be ignored. On most vehicles these days there are so many symbols on the dash that if they don't look self explanatory, it might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the owners handbook. This way you can remain calm when a light is triggered. The basic lights which we all know are probably a picture of a light bulb to signal a light is out either on the front or the back. Another would be the windscreen symbol to denote a low screen wash level.


It is worth remembering that in most vehicles  they follow a traffic light colour system: green means that everything is working correctly, yellow indicates that there is an issue that requires attention, and red signals a serious problem that should be addressed immediately. Not paying attention to the flashing safety lights could lead to severe consequences, as some of them can indicate serious issues such as a leak in the engine, a flat battery, low levels of brake fluid or an overheated engine. In most cases a modern car will flick into what's known as 'Limp Home Mode' when a serious issue arrises limiting the cars power dramatically to protect itself. This usually triggers the 'Engine Management Light' or 'Check Engine.' With that said, let us guide you through some of the more common lights that you may or may not have encountered.



Traction Control Warning

The stability or traction control can be switched on and off from the from a button or via the main screen menus. It is switched on by default and should remain on. If for some reason there is an error with the traction control you might see this light illuminated. Please proceed with caution until checked by a mechanic particularly on slipper or damp surfaces.



Tyre Pressure Warning

Most vehicles these days are fitted with Tyre Pressure Sensors. The tyre pressure warning light comes on when the air in your tyres is low and needs topping up. This means that you should check the tyre pressure as soon as possible and top up at the next opportunity. If the light doesn’t turn off or appears again soon after topping up then it might be a sign of a puncture. Some vehicles require you to manually reset the pressure in the menu settings so it can re-calibrate when driving.



Brake Fluid Warning

If a symbol appears on your dashboard that looks like an exclamation mark in a circle then this indicates that the brake fluid level is low. When you see this red warning light it’s best to pull over as soon as possible while keeping your speed low and avoiding sudden braking. If you’re not sure how to check the brake fluid levels yourself, get to a professional garage with a good reputation as soon as possible for a double check.



Engine Management Warning

The one none of us like to see! An amber engine management light lets you know there might be something wrong with the engine. The light can appear because of a minor issue or it can also indicate something serious such as a fault with your emission control system. You can continue driving to your destination but should get it checked out as soon as possible to prevent further damages to the engine.



Engine Temperature Warning

Engine temperature light is also known as the coolant temperature warning light. It indicates that the coolant levels are running low which is causing the engine to overheat. If this light is red then you should stop immediately, wait for the engine to cool down and top up the coolant. Make sure to also check if there are any obvious leaks. If no coolant is available, water should get you to your destination but should never be left in the system long term. Coolant has temperature management properties for extreme heat and cold.



Power Steering Warning

The power steering, also known as an EPS warning light, appears as a steering wheel symbol with an exclamation mark next to it. It warns you that there is a fault in the power steering system and if the system fails then your car will become difficult to steer. If you have a hydraulic power steering system, you should check the steering wheel fluid and top it up as required. If you have an electronic system, the issue may be solved by turning your car on and off again. If the light stays on then get it checked out promptly.



Brake Pad Warning

The brake pad warning light comes on when the brake pads are getting too worn and should be replaced soon. You can carry on driving to your destination, but you must not ignore these warning lights. You should get the brake pads changed as soon as possible. If they get too thin it can be extremely dangerous as you run the risk of going metal to metal with no pad in between.



Oil Warning

The oil warning light indicates that the oil level or pressure might be too low, the oil temperature is too high or that there is an oil leak. When this light comes on then you should stop the car at the next opportunity, check the oil levels and top up if necessary. You should also check if there are any oil leaks under the car. If the light has come on even though the oil levels are fine then it can be a sign of a faulty oil pump and in this case, you should call a mechanic or roadside assistance.


We hope this brief guide aids you in some way when presented with one of these lights. Some vehicles do have make/model specific error lights but the above should cover the basics for all models. If there is anything else we can help you with here in DoneDeal, don't hesitate to get in contact.


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