On a vehicle’s dashboard, several lights are likely to come on at one time or another. While some are not urgent or serious, others indicate an imminent risk of breakdown and require the vehicle to be stopped immediately. It’s not always easy to adopt the right gestures and to react properly when you don’t know all these lights! Let’s take stock to better enlighten you on the issue.
Dashboard lights: a matter of color?
To avoid any unnecessary panic – and therefore any risk of danger – when a light comes on on the dashboard, be aware that the manufacturers have adopted a simple and universal color code.
- When a light is green, there is no disturbing character. This is an activated feature (dipped beam, position lights, front fog lights, indicators, ECO driving, etc.).
- When an LED is amber, it is a moderate alert. You must then react quickly (but without immediate urgency), because the problem may become more serious if you continue driving in this way. The only exception is the rear fog lamp warning light, which is often amber on vehicles to distinguish it from the front fog lamps.
- When a light is red, it is important to immediately leave the traffic lanes to park in a safe place. Indeed, the problem is urgent and is a source of danger that makes driving reckless.
Note that there is also a blue light for the high beams. This is a feature-enabled indicator that has no alert character.
What do the different lights on the dashboard mean?
We are only showing you the red and orange lights here, because these are the ones that should alert you.
The coolant temperature warning light
When this red light featuring a thermometer and small waves is on, it tells you that the vehicle’s engine is too hot because the coolant temperature is too high.
The first thing to do is to leave the traffic lanes. Park in a safe place and turn off the engine. Leave it to cool for a few minutes to avoid any risk of burns and then check the coolant level.
On some vehicles, this same light turns blue on start-up. It simply indicates that the engine is cold and it goes out after a few minutes of driving. Nothing to worry about.
The battery light
The red battery light will illuminate to let you know of battery, regulator, alternator, or fan belt failure. Leave the traffic lanes and park in a secure area.
If the battery is the cause, just change it. Otherwise, seek the services of a mechanic.
The brake system warning light
This red light featuring an exclamation point surrounded by a circle and parentheses indicates a brake malfunction. It is not necessarily serious since it is on when the handbrake is activated. Release the handbrake and the warning light should disappear. On the other hand, if it stays on, it may indicate wear of the brake pads or a too low level of brake fluid. Then go to a garage.
The engine oil pressure warning light
When this warning light, which represents an oil can, comes on, the engine oil pressure is too low. Pull out of the traffic lanes, turn off the engine and wait for it to cool. Add some engine oil. If the light remains on despite everything, have your vehicle towed to a garage or to your home. It may be an oil leak or a sensor fault.
The airbag warning light
Depending on the vehicle, the airbag warning light varies. In general, when it lights up and is shown alone, it signals that the sensors or the airbags have a fault. It is therefore necessary to have them repaired by a mechanic in order to protect you in the event of an accident.
On some vehicles, these lights are always on. They are then accompanied by an “ON” if the airbags are activated and an “OFF” if they are deactivated. A very useful detail when the baby seats are installed in the front.
The engine light
The engine warning light, representing an orange engine, comes on to signal a fault in the engine control or in the exhaust system. It does not present an immediate emergency character, but if it stays on, it is advisable to go to a garage.
The tire pressure warning light
This amber light looks like the brake system light. This is an exclamation point surrounded by parentheses. It tells you that the tire pressure is too low. So be sure to drive as smoothly as possible and without sudden movements and check the pressure of all four tires as soon as you can in order to readjust it.
ABS warning light
This orange warning light comes on to warn you that the ABS system is no longer working. You can still drive around, but it is recommended that you go to a garage, as it can cause or hide more serious damage.
The ESP warning light
This orange indicator represents a car followed by two inverted S-turns. ESP is the programmed electro-stabilizer. Do not panic ! It lights up to inform you that it is activated and it deactivates automatically as soon as it is no longer useful. On the other hand, if it remains visible, it may indicate a deactivation of the system. Consult a mechanic as soon as possible, as this feature is important to ensure vehicle stability on icy and wet roads.