Today's cars are incredibly complex machines, with multiple computer systems, sensors, and electrical components all working together behind the scenes. When something isn't working correctly, a warning light will appear on the dashboard as an alert. Usually, these warning lights aren't a cause for major concern, but should they ever come on when you're driving, it's important to know what the symbols mean and take corrective action.

Dashboard warning lights come in various colors, with red being the most serious, as this usually means there's an issue or failure of a component. Yellow or amber lights indicate a lower-grade hazard or warning, such as activated traction control when driving on slippery roads. On the other hand, green, blue, and white lights signify that a feature is enabled, such as the headlights or cruise control.

Although you may know what a few lights mean, some symbols can be tricky to decipher. To help you understand your vehicle's dashboard symbols, the team at North End Mazda of Lunenburg, Massachusetts, has put together this list of the most common warning lights and their meanings. 

Check Engine Light


Indicator Lamps by Kecko is licensed with CC BY 2.0

Your car's check engine light comes on when its onboard computer detects an engine, emissions, or fuel system issue. This can be anything as minor as a loose gas cap to something more serious, such as a faulty catalytic converter. This warning light typically resembles an engine in the shape of a lightning bolt, and you should take it seriously. Unless you're really experienced with car repair, it's best to take your vehicle to a professional as soon as possible if this light illuminates. Either way, you should avoid long drives until someone has diagnosed and fixed the issue. 

ABS Light

This symbol looks like a circle with parentheses around it and is usually yellow. This normally illuminates when the system has detected an issue with your vehicle's brake system, which can be something as simple as low brake fluid or a malfunctioning wheel speed sensor. ABS helps prevent skidding and traction loss when braking hard in wet or icy conditions. You should still be able to brake normally, but it's best to take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible if this light illuminates.

Traction Control Light

The traction control system light typically appears in the shape of a car with squiggly lines around it. It's a warning that your vehicle's traction control system has been activated. This indicates that the wheels may be slipping and losing grip, which may be due to too much acceleration or excessive speed around sharp corners. 

The message may also appear if the traction control system has been disabled. In this case, you should be more cautious when driving on wet or slippery roads. If the light stays on for more than a few seconds, you should have your car checked by a mechanic to make sure nothing is wrong with the system.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System Light

The tire pressure warning light may appear as an exclamation mark or an exclamation mark inside a U-shaped symbol. It indicates that one or more of your vehicle's tires is greatly underinflated, which can cause a loss in handling and braking. If this light appears, it's best to pull over and check your tires to ensure they're inflated to the recommended pressures. It's also a good idea to inspect and check your tires' tread depth to ensure they're still safe for driving.

Air Suspension Warning Light

Air suspension systems are becoming increasingly popular in modern cars, as they provide a more comfortable ride without sacrificing performance. The air suspension warning light resembles a car with an arrow pointing down and another pointing up. It usually goes on when the system detects a problem, such as low air pressure or a leak in the system. If you see this light, it's important to have your car checked by a professional as soon as possible, as the air suspension is essential to the vehicle's handling and stability.

Service Reminder Light

The service reminder light usually appears in the shape of a wrench and indicates it's time for regular maintenance, such as an oil change or air filter replacement. Most modern cars have onboard computers that can detect when it's time for routine maintenance, so if you see this light, it's best to schedule an appointment with your mechanic or dealer. It's also important to follow the car manufacturer's recommended maintenance intervals, as this will help to keep your vehicle running smoothly.

Oil Pressure Warning Light

This light is usually shaped like an oil can and will illuminate if the engine's oil pressure is too low. Several things, such as a low oil level, an old or malfunctioning oil pump, and worn engine bearings, can cause low oil pressure. If this light appears on your dashboard, it's important to take your car in for repair as soon as possible to avoid damage to the engine.

Coolant Temperature Warning Light

This symbol is usually shaped like a thermometer and will illuminate if the engine's coolant temperature is too high. An old or malfunctioning cooling system, a low coolant level, or even an issue with the thermostat can cause high temperatures. As this warning light could indicate a problem that may cause serious damage to the engine if left untreated, it's important to take your car in for repair as soon as possible if it appears on your dashboard.

Battery Warning Light

This symbol depicts a battery and will appear when the car's electrical system isn't operating correctly. An old battery, a malfunctioning alternator, or other electrical problems could cause this. If this light comes on, it's recommended to have a mechanic inspect the car as soon as possible. Otherwise, the car may not start or experience power loss while driving.

It's important to familiarize yourself with the meaning of these common dashboard symbols so you can take the necessary steps to keep your car in good condition and running smoothly. While some of these warning lights may be false alarms, it's best to err on the side of caution and schedule a service appointment with North End Mazda in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, if any of these symbols appear. Not only are we experts in Mazda maintenance and repairs, but we also have an extensive inventory of new and used cars. Contact us today to learn more about our services. 

Categories: Car Tips