What do the common warning lights mean?
Engine Temperature Warning
Typically shaped like a thermometer, the engine temperature warning light is meant to alert you to high engine temperatures. Whether from a failed water pump, a stuck thermostat, or a cooling system leak, it’s crucial to have this warning checked and repaired immediately.
Against popular belief, the battery light doesn’t indicate a battery defect in most cases. More accurately, it alerts you to charging system issues like a faulty alternator or wiring concerns that prevent the battery from receiving a sufficient charge. It could eventually leave you stranded, so finding and fixing the cause is imperative.
Oil Pressure Warning
This oil can-shaped indicator is red in color, meaning it’s a critical concern. The oil pressure warning light comes on when the onboard computer detects low oil pressure in the engine. Anytime the oil pressure light is on while the engine is running, it’s a cause for alarm that should be checked right away to prevent a catastrophic event in the engine.
Brake System Light
A red exclamation mark contained in a circle is drawing your attention to a braking issue. It could be the emergency or parking brake is engaged, or it could be a more serious problem that affects how your brakes operate. It’s not a warning to take lightly and should be diagnosed immediately.
Power Steering Warning
Often shaped like a steering wheel and exclamation, a power steering failure is indicated by a red light. Modern cars equipped with electric power steering assist are most likely to see this indicator. When it’s displayed, it reveals either a communication issue within the system or a fault that prevents power steering assist. Obviously, it’s a primary concern.
Check Engine Light
More accurately known as a Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL), this engine-shaped light can alert you to issues within the engine, emissions, fuel, transmission, or drivetrain systems. As an amber-colored light, it should be checked as soon as possible to minimize repairs, especially if you notice symptoms.
Antilock brakes are intended to help you keep control in loose or slippery conditions. If the ABS system isn’t working as intended, the ABS warning light will come on. Since brakes are a safety system, it’s imperative that you address this light in due course. However, your normal brakes should operate as designed.
Transmission Warning Light
For some vehicles, a separate yellow light shaped like a gear containing an exclamation can illuminate. This light comes on when the computer detects a fault in the transmission. It’s potentially serious and needs to be diagnosed by a technician to pinpoint the cause.
Routine oil change services, tire rotations, transmission fluid exchanges, and other maintenance are often tracked by the vehicle’s onboard system. Whether it’s a wrenched-shaped light or an “OIL CHANGE REQUIRED” warning, it’s time to bring your vehicle in for regular servicing.
Airbag Warning Light
Either a red or a yellow indicator, the airbag warning light alerts you to one or more airbags that aren’t working as designed. Clearly a safety concern should you get into a collision, an airbag light that’s on while driving should be repaired soon.