Know your dashboard

Our dashboards are full of flashing lights that have been put in place to let you know when your car isn’t feeling 100%. However, a surprising number of people don’t know what each little light means, and often ignore them in the hope they’ll go away – which they rarely do.

These lights come on to help you diagnose and fix problems with your car before they cause a sticky situation, so its best that you know what all the standard lights on your dashboard mean.

Not too sure? Here’s a recap:

Dashboard lights explained

The lights on your dashboard operate in a traffic light system:

Red: Potentially serious problem with your vehicle. Do not drive your car.

Orange: Caution, something requires attention.

Green: This is a reminder, not a problem, so pay attention but you don’t need to act on it straight away.

Red Lights

 Brake system: If you see this light, check your handbrake. If it is off, stop the vehicle when it is safe to do so, then contact the manufacturer or dealer. Any fault with the brakes, fluid, ABS or ESC can be dangerous if you continue to drive.

 Engine cooling system: Normally this light turns on if you haven’t done your proper maintenance checks and you don’t have enough coolant in your radiator. If you’ve filled it up recently, this light coming on would suggest that there’s some sort of blockage or system malfunction that has caused the temperature to rise. Stop the vehicle, and contact your recovery assistance provider.

 Engine oil pressure: Oil needs to be regularly topped up so that you don’t damage your engine. If this light comes on, do a quick oil level test and if it comes out low, get to your nearest petrol station and get some more oil!

 Power steering: This light coming on isn’t the end of the world – you’ll just have to adjust your driving to compensate for the failure of the power-assisted steering. Be careful, and have the system checked as soon as possible.

 Airbags and seat belt restraints: A fault with the airbag can mean that it may not work in an accident, or could even deploy unexpectedly. Go to the nearest qualified servicing workshop to get it fixed.

 Vehicle charging system: It looks like a battery, and guess what – that will be your problem if this light turns on. It means that the battery isn’t being charged, so turn off all unnecessary electrical items and take the car to be checked. If the battery light is yellow, it suggests that the battery is running very low and should be investigated further.

 Steering lock: If it’s yellow, this light is just a reminder that the steering lock is engaged before you start the engine. If it’s red, and you’re driving, there’s a malfunction. Do not switch off the engine as a malfunction with the steering lock could stop you restarting the car, and drive to your local garage.

 Ignition switch: This can show as orange or red when you’re driving (depending on the severity of the fault). Both should be examined further by you, and by a professional.

Orange lights

 Emission control/engine management: It can flash or it can stay on permanently. Either way, it suggests a fault with the engine. Turn the car off and on again, and if the light doesn’t go off consult your garage.

 Diesel particulate filter: For diesel drivers only, if this light flashes you might need to take a long drive to ‘burn off’ the sooty exhaust emissions. Check your vehicle handbook for instructions.

 Glow plugs: Diesel owners again – your glow plug can wear out, and this light will tell if you if yours has any issues. Most of these can be fixed quickly by garages.

 Tyre pressure monitoring: Some cars don’t have this, but if you do this will only signal when one tyre’s pressure falls significantly lower than the others. Even with this gadget, check your tyres regularly!

Now you know what all of these symbols mean, there’s no need to worry if your car lights up like Blackpool illuminations. Just stay calm and deal with each light individually – going from red through green. There are some variations on manufacturer and how advanced your car is, but your trusty owner’s manual will help you get to grip with those.

If you’re interested in any of our new cars, speak to your local dealer today.