Cars have become more reliant on computers, increasing the complexity of various systems and sometimes making problems harder to solve. Several dashboard warning lights alert the driver to severe or mild system malfunctions. According to a survey conducted for Great Britain's Automobile Association (AA), 47 per cent of women and 33 per cent of men could not diagnose the meaning of warning lights. Most vehicle handbooks can identify and define the problem, and should be referred to by every vehicle owner.
Oil Pressure Warning Light
The oil pressure warning light is red. It lights when the engine is started, and blinks off after a few seconds. If the light remains on during driving, the driver should pull over to a safe spot and shut the engine off. This light means dangerously low or no oil pressure inside the engine. Check the oil level at the dip stick and add oil to the prescribed level indicated on the stick.
Battery Charge Warning Light
The battery charge warning light is red and should momentarily turn on during starting and then extinguish. If it does not come on at all or remains on after the engine has been running, it means a problem with the charging systems (alternator or generator) exists. Problems could include bad battery cable connections, a defective alternator or generator, or a broken alternator or generator belt. If the serpentine belt has broken it will require a replacement on the site or a tow to a repair station.
Brake System Light
The red brake system light will stay on during the application of the handbrake. If it stays on after disengaging the handbrake, it could indicate a low brake fluid level. Remember that as the brake pads or drums wear down, the fluid level will decrease in the master cylinder, so check it often. Seek assistance at a service station.
Engine Warning Light
The engine warning light will normally be yellow in colour, but might be red in some vehicles. This warning light blinks on and off during engine start. If it continues to stay on it could mean a problem with the engine monitoring system. If it flashes on and off in a steady rhythm while driving, the vehicle owner should decrease speed. Stopping and then restarting the engine might stop the problem. If the light continues to stay on, the vehicle should be taken to a repair station where a scanner tool can be used to identify the problem.
ABS Warning Light
The yellow ABS (brake) warning light will come on briefly during engine start. If it remains on while driving it could mean a problem with the braking system, like a sensor. This warning light does not stipulate an emergency, but the vehicle owner should have it checked out by a technician who can use a code scanning tool to pinpoint the problem.
Brake System and ABS Warning Lights
If the ABS warning light and the brake system warning light come on at the same time during driving, it means the brake condition has approached an emergency condition. If safe to do so, the vehicle owner should proceed to the nearest parking area and call for assistance. The brake pedal should not be depressed suddenly with extreme pressure during emergency pullover.
Temperature Warning Light
The red temperature warning light means your engine has reached a maximum temperature threshold, which could be caused by a low coolant level, failure of the radiator fan or fans, a stuck thermostat, blown head gasket or catastrophic coolant leak. The engine should be shut off immediately. Sometimes turning off the air conditioning unit and switching on the heater can cool the engine down. Regardless, extreme high engine temperatures need to be solved immediately to avoid serious engine damage.