Decoding Maintenance Dashboard Lights

Decoding Maintenance Dashboard Lights

Decoding Maintenance Dashboard Lights
Reading Time: 3 minutes

When a light pops up on a vehicle’s dashboard, many drivers tend to feel a wave of anxiety. Such lights may be an indicator that something is broken, a reminder about needed maintenance, or simply a suggestion intended to promote a better driving experience. Typically, your vehicle will alert you of any service it needs to continue performing optimally.  

Vehicle dashboards contain a wide array of lights. When illuminated, each will inform you of an internal mechanism that may need professional attention soon. Not all of these lights indicate complete vehicular failure, but some require more urgency than others. This blog highlights the most common dashboard lights and exactly what they mean.  

Tire Pressure Warning Light

The tire pressure warning light signals that one or more of your tires have too much or too little pressure. Contrary to popular belief, incorrect tire pressure can have a significant impact on your driving experience. Extremely low tire pressure causes the tire to overheat, potentially leading to a blowout. Meanwhile, excessive pressure could lead to decreased traction and shortened tire life. In both scenarios, incorrect tire pressure leads to a sharp decline in your vehicle’s fuel economy. Addressing this light quickly will save you lots of money in the long run. 

Check Engine Light

The check engine light is one of the most common dashboard lights and is considered to be a “wild card” by seasoned mechanics. This is because the check engine light may be illuminated to inform you of a variety of issues, ranging from negligible to dangerous. It’s difficult to know exactly what a check engine light is telling you at first glance, so it’s best to visit an automotive shop for diagnosis as soon as possible. 

Battery Alert

An illuminated battery light normally indicates that your car’s electrical system is not receiving sufficient power from the battery. Oftentimes, a dead or low battery will disallow you from starting your vehicle altogether. This light could also signal a damaged battery cable or similar issue with the alternator belt. You’ll generally see this light when attempting to start the ignition. If it appears while driving, discontinue the use of air conditioning, phone charging, and other car accessories until you find the closest vehicle technician. 

Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) Warning

A vehicle’s ABS system is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up and malfunctioning under heavy braking. It also helps you to stay in control on the road while decreasing the chances of skidding. When the ABS warning light is illuminated, it likely means your brake fluid levels are too low and need topping up. Luckily, you can find inexpensive brake fluid at most auto parts stores, and doing the labour yourself is simple. If refilling the fluid reservoir does not work, consult with a trained technician who will be able to give you a complete diagnosis. 

Airbag Indicator

The airbag indicator shows a picture of an airbag deployed to protect a seated passenger. When illuminated, this light is telling you that there is something wrong with your vehicle’s supplemental restraint system (SRS). This system is designed to keep drivers and passengers safe in the event of an accident. It includes crash sensors, seatbelts, and airbags, as well as critical electrical wiring. Your airbag indicator could be signalling an issue with any of the SRS components. Never reset the airbag light yourself. To protect yourself and others, always have a mechanic address any issue, after which he (or she) will turn off the indicator.

Washer Fluid Indicator

Ever wonder what actually powers your windshield wipers to clear your windshield of heavy rain and sleet? The answer is washer fluid. That’s why it’s important to ensure your washer fluid levels are high enough to sufficiently power your wipers when necessary. The washer fluid indicator suggests that your vehicle is running low and must be refilled. Like brake fluid, you can find washer fluid at your local auto parts store and refill the reservoir yourself. 

Low Fuel Indicator

This is the most obvious indicator on the dashboard. It shows a gas pump and is usually illuminated in bright yellow. The low fuel light indicates that your vehicle will need gas soon. Many drivers think it’s best to rush to the nearest gas station as soon as the light appears. While this is not a terrible strategy, it is far from necessary. Depending on your car model, you’ll have anywhere between 50 and 80 kilometres before completely running out of fuel. 

These are just a few of the most common dashboard lights you’ll find on vehicles sold in North America. There are several more maintenance lights in modern vehicles, but they aren’t as prevalent today. Depending on your vehicle’s age, you may or may not be faced with certain indicators not discussed above. But have no fear. Simply take your vehicle to a mechanic and they’ll quickly diagnose any problem your car may have. 


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