What do your dashboard lights mean?

Timothy Alcock December 14, 2011 0

A guide to the engine lights on your dashboard.

What to do if any one of the engine lights appears in your car and what it means for your vehicle.

There are so many lights on the dashboard that if one comes on, we’re not always sure of what issues our car is faced with.

It could be anything from the engine light to the battery light but each come with their own problem and if a light comes on, you need to rectify any issues as soon as possible.

The light that poses the biggest fear is the ‘check engine’ light because this could mean a number of problems from the gas cap to the head gasket. The engine light is set up to register faults throughout the car, not just the engine so the best thing you can do is to take your car to the garage and get them to check it over with a plug in to give you a unique fault code.

If the garage asks you to pay to plug in your car, go elsewhere if possible as they will only tell you the code – you want the garage to give your car a proper diagnostic, only then should you pay a small fee. The service that you will be asking for should your engine light appears is a free diagnostics check.

The brake lights are relatively self-explanatory; you will need to get your brakes checked. There are two types of brake light; there will be a circle with an exclamation mark in the centre or a circle that reads ABS in the middle if your car comes with an anti-lock braking system. Issues with the brakes can sometimes be rectified by looking in the car manual as each car manufacturer has different uses for the brake light, so the problem in a Ford could be completely different to a Vauxhall.

The problem could be something as simple as the brake fluid in the cylinder is low but it could always be something more serious so it’s best to get it checked straight away to be on the safe side.

If the ABS brake light comes on, there could be a serious fault for example the ABS system could need replacing, then again it could be a simple sensory issue that shouldn’t take much to fix. The ABS light could be on continuously however; if it is flashing there is an indication of something more serious and you don’t want to be caught out with no brakes at all.

The service light in the car indicates that it is time to get your car serviced. Some cars measure the service check by counting the mileage of the car and alert you around 500 miles before you need a service. Others monitor the temperatures under the bonnet – the light will switch on if the car notices any vehicle stress.

The oil light is the one that looks like a little oil can and if this turns on it means that you have got an issue with your oil. This could simply mean that your oil level is low but in other cases it can mean that your oil filter is blocked or that your oil pump is broken. It is vital that you rectify any oil problems immediately – ignoring the light can cause your engine to cut out completely.

The electrical fault light means that there is an issue with the battery or alternator, in this case you need to recharge your battery or replace the alternator which isn’t a major job and can be done at home.

Lastly there is the coolant light on the dashboard which usually means that the coolant in the radiator needs topping up, however don’t touch the radiator cap when the engine is hot – you could be sprayed with boiling coolant.