Warning Lights on the Dash Board

Warning lights on the dash can be a worrying problem, but if you know what they mean, it can ease the anxiety. Carry on reading the guide below to help you find out what the lights mean


The warning lights are color-coordinated so that different colors indicate the severity of the potential problem. As you start the car, all of the lights should come on, and as the computer verifies each component is working properly, the light is turned off. You should only be concerned with lights that remain on for several minutes after the car has been started. You might find the Brake/ Handbrake warning light may stay on, because you should still have the handbrake applied.

A Red Warning light indicates an immediate danger. Pull over, turn off the car immediately and assess the problem. Symptoms that usually cause red warning lights are engine over-heating, low oil pressure, transmission over-heating, low battery voltage, and brake failure.

A Yellow Warning light, (Usually a Service engine soon light) indicates "Proceed with caution." The onboard computer system has indicated a potential problem and is alerting the driver. This computer system resets and re-tests all sensors and indicators each time the car is started. The computer system is capable of correcting some minor abnormalities, but if the light continues to come on after multiple car starts, it is probably sensing something that would imply a visit to the diagnostic mechanic is in order.


If a warning light says OIL or you see a little icon of an oil can, DO NOT ignore this warning light. It means your engine is not getting normal oil pressure. Stop driving immediately, turn the engine off and check the engine's oil level. If low, add oil to bring the level up to the FULL mark on the dipstick.

 Warning Light

If after topping up the oil level or the oil is at the correct level, and warning light still stays on, then DON'T drive any further and get the problem checked out immediatly.

The underlying cause of a low oil pressure warning light is usually a low oil level in the engine's crankcase. This, in turn, may be due to leaky gaskets or seals, or worn valve guides, piston rings and/or cylinders that are causing the engine to burn oil. Leaky gaskets and seals are usually not too expensive to replace (except for the rear main crankshaft seal which is difficult and expensive to replace). The only fix for a worn engine that is burning oil is to overhaul or replace the engine (very expensive!)

Other causes of an low oil pressure warning light include a worn oil pump or a faulty oil pressure sending unit.


The "ALT" warning light, or an icon of a battery usually means trouble and indicates that there is a charging system problem). You do NOT have to stop immediately, but your drive time will be limited: maybe 30 minutes or so during the daytime, or less after dark.

 Warning Light

This warning light comes on when the charging system is NOT producing enough current or voltage to meet your vehicle's electrical needs and your car will be running off the battery alone. As long as the battery lasts you can continue to drive, but eventually, the battery will go dead causing your fuel pump and/or ignition system to stop working. To maximize your remaining drive time, turn off all accessories to minimize the electrical drain on the battery. If you're driving at night, DO NOT turn off your lights (too dangerous!). Pull off at the first opportunity and seek help.

The cause of this light illuminating may be a failed alternator or generator, a failed voltage regulator (if separate from the alternator), loose or corroded battery cables, or a broken or slipping drive belt.


The Brake Warning light may be one for one of two reasons: you forgot to release the parking brake, or your brake system has a potentially serious hydraulic problem that may make your vehicle unsafe to drive.

First, check the parking brake lever. Make sure it is fully released.

Brake System Warning Light

If that is not the problem, test the brakes by pressing on the brake pedal. If the light comes on only while pressing the pedal, it means one of the hydraulic circuits in the brake system has lost pressure -- probably because of a leak. Your vehicle may or not be able to stop with this kind of problem, making it unsafe to drive. If the pedal feels unusually low or goes to the floor, DO NOT attempt to drive the vehicle. Have it towed to a workshop for repairs (or fix it yourself).

If the Brake Warning light remains on all the time, the problem may be a low fluid level in the master brake cylinder reservoir. Many vehicles have a fluid level sensor that comes on if the fluid level gets low. This may also occur when braking hard or braking on an incline because of the fluid sloshing inside the reservoir. Check the brake fluid level and add fluid as needed if low. The brake system should also be inspected for leaks or worn linings.


When the ignition switch is turned to position 2, the warning light will illuminate for about 3 seconds, to indicate the system is working ok. If the working light stays on, or flashes when driving, it means there is a problem with the system. Have it checked out as soon as possible.

Air Bag Warning Light

A warning light that looks like this should NEVER come on unless there is a fault in your vehicle's air bag system. Like the engine computer and ABS computer, the air bag control module runs a self-check every time the vehicle is driven. If it finds a fault in a crash sensor, one of the air bag modules, the wiring or itself, it will set a code, turn on the warning light and disable itself.

You can drive the vehicle but the air bag(s) will NOT deploy should you be involved in an accident. You should have the problem diagnosed and repaired at your earliest convenience.


Also called the "Malfunction Indicator Lamp" or (MIL), an illuminated CHECK ENGINE LIGHT means you vehicle has detected a potential emissions fault. The computer has logged one or more diagnostic trouble codes that correspond to the problem and turned on the warning lamp to alert you to the problem. Engine Warning Light There is NO WAY to determine the nature of the problem without connecting a scan tool to the vehicle's diagnostic connector to read the fault code(s). Once this has been done, further diagnosis and testing may be required to isolate the fault so the correct parts(s) can be replaced. Don't be alarmed by a CHECK ENGINE light. Often the problem is something minor that will NOT affect the way your engine runs, or you car's ability to start or drive. Depending on the nature of the fault, your engine may not run as good as it normally does, or it may use more fuel than usual. But usually the problem does NOT require immediate attention. You can continue to drive your car until it can be diagnosed. Common reasons for the CHECK ENGINE light to come on include a loose gas cap, fouled spark plugs, dirty fuel injectors, the failure of an engine sensor such as the oxygen sensor, throttle position sensor or manifold absolute pressure sensor, or a problem in an emissions control system or device such as the EGR valve or catalytic converter.


This warning lamp means your antilock brake system has detected a fault. When this happens, the ABS system logs one or more fault codes that correspond to the problem and turns on the ABS warning light.

ABS Warning Light

In most cases, it also temporarily DISABLES your ABS system. You vehicle should still brake and stop normally, but it will NOT have antilock braking when making a sudden panic stop or braking on wet or slick surfaces. You can continue driving, but you should have the problem diagnosed and repaired at your earliest convenience.

NOTE: If the Brake Warning light is also on, it may indicate a serious hydraulic problem with the brake system. Your vehicle may NOT be safe to drive (see the info on Brake Warning Light above).


Fuel Low Light

This warning light means that your car is running low on fuel, and should be topped up as soon as possible, to avoid running out and breaking down.

Certain vehicle manufacturers, have a safety device installed, to ensure that you dont run out of fuel. This is especially inmportant on vehicles with diesel engines, as extensive, and expensive damage can be caused by running out of fuel.


Transmission Warning Light

This warning light indicates a malfunction of the engine and powertrain related system.

For further information on this warning light please check your owners handbook. As a guide if this light illuminates permanently when driving, then the car can be driven, but a minor reduction in performance may occur, such as reduced power or acceleration. Have your vehicle checked out as soon as possible. If the light flashes when driving, then stop the vehicle and switch off the engine, straight away, and have the vehicle checked out as soon as possible.