Did a light suddenly pop up on your dashboard and you’re not sure what it’s for? Should you worry or do you need to take immediate action?
The lights on your car’s dashboard serve as an information and warning system. Some lights illuminate to indicate that you are currently using a certain function of the car. If you turn on your high beams, you’ll see a light letting you know you’ve activated them. Other lights provide a warning about a mechanical or electrical component in your vehicle.
Knowing what these lights mean, and when you need to call for assistance, could help you avoid major issues in your car. Check out the top 6 dashboard lights you should know.
1. Check Engine Light
The check engine alert could light up for several reasons. It might be as simple as a loose gas cap that’s allowing fuel to evaporate. Other times, a check engine light lets you know you have a serious mechanical issue in your car.
If you check engine light pops up when you’re driving, pull over in a safe spot and look over your car. Be sure to check the gas cap and tighten it if it’s loose. That might be enough to disengage the light.
Pop the hood and take a look at the engine. Look for signs of the engine overheating, such as smoke coming from the engine block. You might also be able to smell unusual odors if your engine is in trouble. If the light is still on, try to visit a mechanic as soon as possible to diagnose the issue.
Don’t continue to drive your car if the check engine light comes on and flashes. A flashing check engine signal indicates an immediate problem. You should pull over as soon as it’s safe and call for help through a program like roadside assistance.
2. Low Tire Pressure
The low tire pressure light is part of your car’s tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). This system monitoring the amount of air pressure in your tires. When the pressure falls below a certain pounds per square inch (psi), the system alerts you with the low pressure symbol on your dashboard.
Head to the nearest gas station when you see this light. Tires without enough pressure are more prone to blowouts due to friction with the road. Having enough air in your tires also helps you save gas.
Most gas stations have free or low-cost air compressors you can use to fill your tires. Another option is to purchase a small portable air compressor designed to keep in your car.
3. Oil Pressure System
This alert looks like a small oil can pouring out a drop of oil, and it indicates you have an issue with your oil pressure system. Car’s need oil to lubricate the mechanical parts of your engine. Oil also works to keep your engine cool so it doesn’t overheat when driving.
When the oil pressure warning comes on, you could have low oil levels or an issue with the system itself. Your best option is to visit a mechanic as soon as possible. A malfunctioning oil system could cause serious damage and excessive wear to your engine’s systems.
4. Engine Temperature Warning
The engine coolant temperature warning lets you know that your engine is overheating. Pull over and shut the car off as soon as it’s safe and call for assistance. Consider popping the hood if you can do so from inside. If you need to touch the hood to open it, skip that step to avoid burning your hand on the hot metal.
The way the temperature warning works is by monitoring the temperature of your engine coolant, also called antifreeze. The light comes on when the coolant reaches a certain temperature. It could mean a serious problem with your engine’s cooling system.
You might also get a temperature warning on particularly hot days or if your vehicle is working harder than usual. For example, driving up a steep hill during the hottest part of the day could cause a temporary overheating. In this case, you could potentially pull over and wait for your engine to cool off on its own.
5. Traction Control Light
Driving on icy, graveled or wet roads can cause your vehicle to slide. These slippery surfaces could lead to you losing control of the vehicle. Your car’s traction control system is there to help you keep control in these situations.
As the traction control system engages, a light will show up on your dashboard. This lets you know that the traction or stability system is working. Don’t panic if you see this light on your dashboard. Remain calm and ease your foot off of the accelerator. This should help you slow down and make it easier to take control of your vehicle.
6. Battery Symbol
The light that looks like a battery probably seems fairly straightforward: you have an issue with your battery. The light, however, could indicate several issues with your car’s charging system, not just the battery. You might even have an issue with your alternator, such as a broken belt.
If your battery symbol alert comes on, head to the nearest mechanic or car repair shop. You might have to replace the battery with a new one. Other issues include loose battery cables or damage to the charging system.
Staying Aware to Stay Safe on the Road
The lights on your dashboard are part of the safety system of your vehicle. By knowing what each symbol means, you can get issues repaired before they become major problems.
Be sure to stay alert when you’re driving so you can catch any alert as soon as it lights up. In addition to avoiding big mechanical issues, being aware of the lights on your dashboard could help keep you and other drivers safe on the road.
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