Common Dashboard Lights

Your dashboard lights are extremely important to the well being of your vehicle and to the safety you and your passengers. These lights are a key to finding problems with your vehicle. Many of these lights indicate a fault somewhere in your vehicles system. It doesn’t pinpoint exactly where the problem is, but it is a good guideline of where to look. The following is a list of some important lights to take note of. Not all warning lights are universal, so make sure to check your owner’s manual if you are not 100% sure what a dashboard light means.

Check Engine Light

The check engine light is one of the most important lights you should know. If this light is on, it might be dangerous to drive. Your vehicle will also not pass inspection if this light is on and you will have to use a code reader to decipher what the light means. If your check engine light is on, take your vehicle to a mechanic. Some common problems include:

  • Oxygen Sensor needs replacing
  • The gas cap is loose, damaged or missing
  • Catalytic Converter needs replacing
  • Mass Airflow Sensor needs replacing (MAF)
  • Spark Plugs or Plug Wires need replacing

Brake System

Your brakes are another important feature of your vehicle, and if this light is on, it is best to get it checked out right away. If this light is on, there are three possible reasons: your parking brake is on, there is a problem with the breaking system, or an ABS problem. A problem with the ABS system may need professional diagnosis, but make sure you rule out the other possibilities first. Check your brake fluid and make sure the parking brake is fully released. Adding brake fluid isn’t difficult, but if your car has a brake leak, need to see a professional. If you see amber or gold fluid under your car, that is break fluid and it could mean a leak.

Coolant Warning Light

This light indicates that the temperature has exceeded normal limits. Without any coolant, your car’s engine would get so hot that it would effectively “Weld” itself together. If you see this light, that could mean that the coolant levels are running low. Check the gauge on the side of the coolant tank. If this light comes on and stays on while you are driving, you need to release as much heat as you can from the engine.  Turn the heater and fan on their highest setting, and turn any other devices – A/C, radio, running lights, etc. – off to relieve stress on the engine. Then pull over and call for a tow truck. Continuing to drive with an overheating engine is very dangerous. Your engine could have severe damage or even explode if pushed too far.


This light doesn’t refer to an impending oil change. Like your car’s coolant light, your oil warning light could flash up if the oil temperature gets too high, if the level is low or if the oil pressure is low. Oil is what lubricates your engine and the oil pump is used to spray the fluid to all corners of your engine. If the temperature is too high, the effectiveness of lubrication can be reduced or lost all together. This results in expensive engine damage. If this light goes on, phone a professional right away.


When you start your car, your battery light should come on for the first few seconds, then turn off. If it doesn’t go out after a few seconds, there could be a problem with your vehicle’s electrical system. This could be a faulty alternator or battery or a bad connection with the cables in the engine bay. At worst, the light could indicate an alternator belt breaking. Your alternator should charge the batter while your vehicle is moving. If it is not, you could run out of electrical power and grind to a halt. Other systems also use this belt, so a failure here could be compounded.

Airbag warning light

This is the airbag warning light. In most cars, this light will come on when the vehicle starts up. If it stays on, there could be a fault in the airbag system. Your airbags are a major player in vehicle occupant safety. A faulty airbag won’t go off in a crash, meaning less protection for you and your passengers. Another possibility is that your airbag could deploy when you least expect it, causing injury. Taking your vehicle to a mechanic for repair as soon as possible is extremely important.

If one of your dashboard lights is on, visit Auto Clinic of Stuart. We will help you keep your vehicle running in top condition!