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Car warning lights

Ever looked at your dashboard and wondered about that flashing light? Here's our guide to car warning light meanings.

What do car warning lights mean?

Understanding car dashboard warning lights is a tricky business. But, they're there for a reason so it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with what each one means, as this can help you avoid a potential breakdown or accident.

Your engine warning lights run on a traffic light system. Essentially:

  • GREEN – You're all good. A green (or sometimes blue) light means everything's pretty much ok but something like your screenwash may need a quick check.
  • AMBER – Needs some attention. Amber lights mean you should take extra care and get your car checked professionally as soon as possible.
  • RED – Stop, danger! This is a potentially dangerous fault with your vehicle that needs addressing. If you think your car is undriveable and you don't have breakdown cover, you may need to tow your vehicle to the nearest garage.

Here are some of the most important warning lights to look out for:

Engine warning light

If this light comes on, you may find some other symptoms such as strange noises or a lack of power. You can probably still drive but chances are you'll be in ‘limp home' mode. Have it checked out, pronto.

Brake fluid warning light

Keep an eye out for this one – it's important. If it's on and your handbrake is on, all good. But if it comes on at any other time, have it investigated by a garage as soon as possible because something's up with your brakes.

Anti-lock braking system warning light

If this comes on whilst driving, there's an issue with your anti-lock braking system. You should be ok to drive, as long as you get it checked as soon as you can. BUT, if this light comes on at the same time as your brake light, stop as soon as it's safe to do so. Make sure to go careful on your brakes, reducing your speed slowly. Then call a garage for help.

Oil pressure warning light

If you can't remember when you last checked your oil level – this light is for you as there's a good chance your oil is dangerously low. Get it sorted as soon as possible because leaving this could damage your engine. Eeek.

Battery charge warning light

This could come on for a few different reasons (all to do with your battery obvs!). It may simply be that your battery isn't charging correctly or something more serious. It will need checking but you can probably still drive if you're mid-journey. Just be aware that if you run out of juice, you'll need to dig out those trusty jump leads or call for help if you have breakdown cover.

Coolant warning light

This is a big one. If this light comes on, it means your coolant levels are running low. Without coolant, your car can overheat – it could get so hot that the engine ‘welds' itself together. No-one wants that to happen, so stop and check your coolant levels asap. Top up if you need to, but if the levels say they're fine, get to a garage.

Tyre pressure warning light

Pretty straightforward – you've probably got a flat tyre or are about to get one. Check your pressures and get pumping if you need to!

Airbag warning light

This may look like someone balancing a football on their lap but it's potentially very serious (particularly if it's a red light). One of the airbags isn't working, so it might not go off in a crash or, perhaps worse, it could go off unexpectedly. Get this fixed asap.

Power steering warning light

If this light comes on, you may also find your steering has suddenly become very heavy (who remembers the pre-power steering days?!). You'll need to get this looked at by a professional.

Diesel particulate filter warning light

If you drive a diesel, this filter helps clear out all those nasty toxins that come from diesel fuel. If you see this light, it means it's not working correctly – not good for the environment or your vehicle! Get this sorted otherwise it could lead to more serious problems (and cause you to fail an MOT).

We hope that helps clear up any confusion around dashboard warning lights. A good rule of thumb is to keep up with general routine checks and maintenance – hopefully that will help avoid any lights flashing on your dashboard!

All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

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