Meanings of Car Dashboard Signs

Over the past decades and up to our present day, a significant number of drivers still find themselves questioning the meanings of the signs on the car dashboard. These lights and indicators on the instrument panel vary, with some being well-known and easy to understand, while others remain unfamiliar to most.

Therefore, in the following lines, we provide a comprehensive reference for all warning signs on the car dashboard, explaining each one in detail. Understanding these signs will help you better comprehend your cars and maintain them for a longer lifespan.

It is worth noting that the dashboard lights in the car follow a traffic signal color system as follows:

  • Green or Blue: Indicates that the system is functioning correctly or is currently in use.
  • Yellow: Indicates the need to check the system or the illuminated part to avoid future hazards.
  • Red: Indicates a serious problem that could lead to significant consequences.

Warning Dashboard Signs in the Car

In this section, you will find indicators that warn the driver of a specific fault that could cause significant damage in the future if not addressed immediately.

Engine Temperature Warning Indicator

This indicator, also known as the high engine temperature warning light, signals that the engine’s temperature has risen above the normal range. The driver should immediately stop driving and seek assistance. If this light appears in red, it indicates a major fault, and the elevated temperature may lead to the melting of internal components. Common causes include:

  • Low coolant levels or a leak in the cooling system.
  • Low engine oil levels.
  • Malfunctioning cooling fan.

This indicator may also appear in yellow, suggesting a decrease in coolant levels. In this case, avoid long distances, replenish the radiator with the necessary fluids, and if the indicator continues to appear, visit a maintenance center. If the indicator appears in blue, it signals that the cooling system’s temperature in the car is too low.

Battery Warning Indicator

This indicator appears in red to warn of a malfunction in the battery charging process and the electrical circuit. The issue could be:

  • Alternator failure.
  • Battery reaching the end of its life.
  • Electrical connection malfunction or damage.

Engine Oil Indicator

This indicator signals a low engine oil level or a significant increase in temperature. In this case, it is not recommended to continue driving. Stop and check the oil level, look for any leaks, and seek assistance from a maintenance center if the indicator persists after adding oil.

Brake Warning Light

This light appears during driving or after releasing the handbrake, indicating a decrease in brake fluid levels or a fault in one of the brake systems, such as ABS. It appears in red to emphasize its importance. It is one of the indicators added to cars to ensure the safety of the driver and passengers.

Additional brake indicators include:

  • A flashing lines indicator indicates a fault in the brake pads, which should be replaced.
  • An indicator with the letter P in the middle suggests a problem with the handbrake.
  • The last indicator indicates a low brake fluid level.

Electric Power Steering (EPS) Warning Light

This light signals a problem in the power steering or “power” system. All you need to do is stop the car on the side of the road, turn off the engine, and restart it after 30 seconds.
If this light continues to appear, you can continue driving, but be cautious not to neglect the issue and head to a maintenance center for a system malfunction, as you may notice difficulty maneuvering and controlling the car due to the heaviness of the steering wheel.

Automatic Transmission Warning

The right indicator warns the driver of a fault in the transmission, while the second indicator signals that the temperature of the transmission fluid is high and will lead to a malfunction. Therefore, check the coolant level, the efficiency of the cooling fan, the radiator cap, and look for any leaks in the coolant.

If this indicator appears in yellow, it does not require an immediate stop, but it serves as a warning for the driver to visit a maintenance center before the problem worsens. If it appears in red, stop on the side of the road and seek assistance.

Seat Belt and Airbag Warning Lights

The right indicator alerts the driver that the seat belt of one of the car’s occupants is not properly fastened. The left light indicates a fault in at least one of the airbag systems. It is not advisable to ignore this light for several reasons:

  • An unexpected traffic accident may occur, and the airbag system will not be activated to protect the occupants.
  • The system may be activated unexpectedly and unnecessarily, causing harm to passengers and damaging internal parts of the car.

Check Engine Light

This indicator appears each time the car is started and then disappears. This is entirely normal. However, if the light remains on, it indicates that the engine is not operating efficiently, and it is not recommended to drive for extended periods after this light appears. It is a warning of various problems in the car, and the driver will not be able to identify them without visiting a maintenance center for examination.

Low Power Warning

This light indicates that the car’s computer has become limited in its ability to generate sufficient power, meaning that the car’s performance will decrease due to a lack of fuel or air flow to the engine.

Suspension System Warning

This light signals a fault in the air suspension bags (leakage or inflation), meaning that the system is not providing the necessary amount of air to cushion and absorb road bumps and turns. It is not advisable to drive for long periods when this indicator appears.

Air Filter Clogged

This light appears when the airflow to the engine is reduced, which may affect its temperature. Therefore, be sure to check this filter or replace it entirely if necessary.

Catalytic Converter Warning

The catalytic converter may experience an increase in temperature or fail to operate as intended. This light may be accompanied by a decrease in engine performance in terms of torque and acceleration. You may observe black smoke coming from the exhaust. It is essential to have the car inspected by a professional mechanic to address the issue.

Diesel Car Dashboard Signs

In this section, you will find the most prominent indicators available only in cars powered by diesel engines. These indicators also serve to warn the driver of specific faults.

Glow Plug Temperature Increase

Users of diesel engine cars must heat the fuel using glow plugs before starting the engine. It is not permissible to start the car before this light goes out. If this signal remains illuminated for an extended period, it indicates that the glow plugs may be damaged and should be replaced.

Diesel Fuel Filter Dirt Indicator

When this indicator appears on the car’s dashboard, it signifies that the diesel fuel filter is full and needs to be drained of dirt to prevent damage to the engine.

Exhaust Fluid Indicator

This light indicates that the diesel engine’s exhaust fluid is low or that there is a malfunction in the exhaust system. Do not ignore this issue and head to a maintenance center to identify the cause and resolve the problem as quickly as possible. The exhaust system is closely related to the engine and may transfer malfunctions to the combustion chambers.

Car Safety System Signs

Here, you will find indicators that denote the safety systems present in the car, whether they are functioning correctly or experiencing a malfunction and are not operating efficiently.

Tire Pressure Warning Indicator

Over time, the air pressure in the car’s tires may decrease depending on the surrounding atmosphere or if the tire is punctured. In this case, you can drive at a slow and cautious speed. Be sure to check the tires as soon as you stop and inflate them or replace them as needed.

Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) Warning Light

The ABS system is a standard safety feature in modern cars. The benefit of this system occurs when the driver suddenly presses the brake pedal, as the system gradually stops the wheel’s movement to prevent the car from skidding on the road.

The appearance of this indicator indicates a malfunction in the system. However, there is no need to worry in this case as it does not signify a brake system failure. If this light appears along with the red brake warning indicator mentioned above, stop immediately and seek assistance as the brakes may have failed.

Lane Departure Warning Light

The appearance of this indicator indicates that the sensors have detected signals suggesting that the car is starting to depart from its current lane. This light serves as an alert to the driver to realign the vehicle.

Blind Spot Detection Indicator

This indicator illuminates when sensors detect an obstacle or another car in the blind spots that the driver cannot see in the mirrors. This system alerts the driver and protects them from potential collisions.

Front Collision Warning Light

This indicator appears when external sensors detect a potential collision from the front of the car. The system aims to warn the driver so they can quickly apply the brakes before a collision occurs.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) System Indicator

The AEB system indicator lights up to alert the driver that the sensors connected to this system are covered in dirt or snow. In such cases, the system may not receive the required signals to activate emergency braking, and this light may also indicate that the system is deactivated.

Traction Control System Light

The way this light illuminates can help determine the issue. If it flashes continuously, it indicates that the system is active. If the light is steady, it signifies that the system is not functioning correctly. If the word “OFF” appears below the indicator, it indicates a system malfunction.

To confirm, turn off the engine for a few minutes, restart it, and check the light. If the indicator persists, take the car to the nearest maintenance center for inspection.

Common Dashboard Signs

These signs are common among most cars, indicating essential elements that cannot be overlooked.

  1. Low washer fluid
  2. Front windshield defrost indicator
  3. Rear windshield defrost indicator
  4. Automatic front windshield wipers
  5. Warning that the hood is not closed
  6. Door ajar warning
  7. Warning that the fuel door is not securely closed
  8. Low fuel indicator
  9. Warning that the smart key is not near or not in the car
  10. Active ECO system
  11. Active Auto Hold system

Exterior Car Lights Dashboard Signs

  1. Low beam headlights
  2. High beam headlights
  3. Front fog lights
  4. Rear fog lights
  5. Automatic high beam
  6. Headlamp range control warning light
  7. Daytime running lights
  8. Malfunction in one of the exterior lights

We have reached the end of this article, where we explained the meanings of dashboard signs in the car based on their type and color. We covered signs related to engine malfunctions, safety systems, as well as common lights found in all cars.

As usual, we remind you to visit maintenance centers for regular and comprehensive car inspections to ensure its safety from time to time.

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