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Deciphering 9 Common Dashboard Warning Lights

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While driving, did one of those symbols on your car’s dashboard light up and refuse to desist?

Understanding those enigmatic warning lights can feel like deciphering a secret code.
But fear not because we’re here to decode the mysteries for you. 

We’ll shed light on 9 common warning indicators your car can throw your way — so you can become a savvy driver and sidestep potential breakdowns. Let’s dive right in.

1. The Engine Silhouette: Check Engine Light

The Check Engine Light (CEL), often a yellow or orange engine symbol, acts as your car’s distress signal, hinting at engine or emission system issues. The problem is — it can be pretty ambiguous. 

What’s important to realize is that ignoring the CEL risks more extensive and expensive damage. So, immediate diagnosis and repair are advisable.

2. The Oil Lamp: Oil Pressure Alert

The Oil Pressure Light, usually depicted as an oil can or lamp, is your car’s guardian of vital engine health. When illuminated, it signals low oil pressure — a potential catastrophe for your engine. 

This is a call to action, urging you to pull over immediately. Check oil levels, look for leaks, and, if needed, seek professional assistance pronto. Ignoring this warning light could lead to costly repairs.

3. An Exclamation Mark Inside a Circle: Brake Warning

The Brake Warning Light, usually a red, encircled exclamation mark, is a safety alert signaling issues with your vehicle’s braking system.

But before you panic, check if your parking brake is engaged. Disengaging should make this alert turn off.

If that’s not the problem, this light can indicate worn brake pads, a hydraulic issue, or low brake fluid — all of which can compromise your ability to stop safely. Immediate inspection and maintenance are essential.

4. The Battery-Shaped Icon: Battery or Alternator Issues

The Battery Light, resembling a charging symbol, is your car’s power gauge. 

When it glows, it warns of potential electrical system issues — possibly a failing battery or alternator. Don’t underestimate it; a dead battery can leave you stranded. Get your vehicle checked ASAP to prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure a reliable ride.

5. A Car with Skid Marks: Traction Control System Warning

The Traction Control System (TCS) Light is the symbol of a car with squiggly skid marks. It

illuminates when the vehicle’s traction control system detects wheel slip or loss of grip. 

TCS helps maintain stability during acceleration, especially on slippery surfaces. It’s crucial not to ignore this light if it stays on, as it indicates potential traction-related issues that need attention to ensure safe driving.

6. An Exclamation Mark in a Horseshoe-ish Shape: TPMS Alert

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Light, resembling an exclamation mark inside a tire, is your tire’s guardian. 

If it illuminates, it’s a sign that tire pressure is too low or too high, compromising safety and fuel efficiency. Check your tire pressure and adjust it to ensure a smooth and safe ride.

7. A Thermometer with Squiggly Lines: Coolant Temperature Alert

The Coolant Temperature Warning Light, typically represented by a thermometer with wavy lines under it, is your vehicle’s temperature watchdog. 

When it lights up, it means your engine is running too hot, which can lead to severe damage. Safely pull over, let the engine cool down, and check for coolant levels and leaks to avoid engine overheating.

8. A Thermometer Inside a Gear: Transmission Temperature Alert

The Transmission Temperature Light is often depicted as a thermometer inside a gear or an exclamation mark inside a gear. It warns when your transmission is overheating. 

Excessive heat can damage internal components and lead to costly repairs. If this light activates, pull over, let the transmission cool, and consider checking for issues like low transmission fluid levels to avoid transmission damage.

9. A Seated Person with an Inflated Airbag: Airbag Warning

The Airbag Light is often shown as a seated passenger with an inflated airbag. When it lights up, it signifies potential issues with your vehicle’s airbag system — which could mean they won’t deploy in a collision. 

Prompt inspection and repair are crucial to ensure your airbags work correctly and protect you in case of an accident.

Not all dash symbols are critical warnings. Some remind you to put on your seatbelt or tell you if your wiper fluid is low. Check out this dashboard light article for more.