What Do the Lights on My Vehicle’s Dashboard Mean?

Apr 24, 2024 | Blog

Dashboard Lights

Dashboard lights serve as the silent messengers of your vehicle, communicating various issues and statuses that demand attention to keep you safe and your vehicle operating correctly. While they can sometimes evoke panic or confusion, understanding their meanings can empower you to address potential problems promptly and effectively.

Let’s decode some of the most common vehicle dashboard lights, including the notorious “check engine” warning, to eliminate unnecessary fear and help you take appropriate action.

Common Dashboard Lights & Their Meanings

Your vehicle comes equipped with sensors to trigger dashboard symbol lights when an issue is detected. Some drivers may go extended periods of time until they inspect and address their vehicle’s problems because they cannot feel or sense any consequences. However, not investigating the area your dashboard light is warning you about can cause the issue to worsen, amplifying the damage to your vehicle and increasing your financial burden when you finally do fix the problem.

Here Are the Most Common Vehicle Dashboard Lights You Need to Know & What They Mean

Check Engine Light (CEL)

The dreaded CEL can illuminate for a myriad of reasons, ranging from minor issues to potentially serious malfunctions. Common causes for a CEL to illuminate include faulty oxygen sensors, loose gas caps, malfunctioning catalytic converters, or engine misfires.

Although some causes may not immediately impact vehicle performance, ignoring the CEL can lead to more severe damage and costly repairs over time. It’s wise to address it promptly by consulting a mechanic or using an OBD-II scanner for initial diagnostics.

Battery Light

A vehicle’s battery light typically indicates a problem with the vehicle’s charging system, signaling low voltage output from the alternator or a failing battery. A battery light may indicate a worn-out alternator belt, corroded battery terminals, or a malfunctioning alternator. Ignoring this light can result in a drained battery, leaving you stranded unexpectedly. Prompt inspection and possible replacement of the battery or alternator are necessary.

Oil Pressure Warning Light

When the oil pressure light illuminates, it indicates low oil pressure, which can be caused by insufficient oil levels, a malfunctioning oil pump, or oil leaks.

Running the engine with inadequate oil pressure can lead to catastrophic engine damage. Therefore, it’s crucial to pull over immediately, check oil levels, and inspect for leaks. Adding oil may resolve the issue temporarily, but professional assessment is recommended to address underlying problems.

Temperature Warning Light

A temperature warning light signals an overheating engine, often due to coolant leaks, a malfunctioning thermostat, or a faulty radiator fan. Continuing to drive with an overheating engine can cause severe damage, including warped cylinder heads or a blown head gasket.

If this warning light illuminates, you should safely pull over immediately, allow the engine to cool, and check coolant levels. If necessary, seek assistance to diagnose and repair the cooling system with a trusted auto repair shop.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Light

An illuminated TPMS warning on your dashboard indicates low tire pressure, potentially caused by a puncture, temperature changes, or a malfunctioning sensor.

Driving with low tire pressure compromises handling, fuel efficiency, and tire lifespan. You can check your tire pressure manually or with a gauge, and inflate the tire(s) to your vehicle’s recommended levels. If the light persists, professional inspection may be required to address underlying issues.

Respond Appropriately to Common Dashboard Lights

Understanding these common dashboard lights, what causes them, and how to fix them enables drivers to respond appropriately to potential vehicle issues. Regular maintenance, prompt attention to warning lights, and professional inspections can help ensure safe and reliable vehicle operation.

Remember, when in doubt, it’s always wise to consult a qualified mechanic for thorough diagnosis and repairs. When the time comes that fixing the problem your dashboard warning light indicates is more than your vehicle is worth, Sell My Junk Car can offer you cash for your vehicle and will ensure it is recycled responsibly.