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Car Warning Lights Meanings & Symbols

If your car ever encounters an issue, chances are one of your dashboard lights will turn on. To drive safely, it is important to know what these lights mean and how to resolve any problems as quickly as possible. 

With that in mind, we’ve put together an A to Z guide of what each of your car warning lights mean, so you can easily identify the problem that needs fixing. Our extensive range of parts will have what you need. So, you can fix the issue and drive safely once more. 

ABS / Anti-Lock Braking System

This warning light indicates an issue with the anti-lock braking system. The lights will come up in red and appear as the three letters ‘ABS’ with a circle around them. 

The ABS prevents the wheels from locking under severe braking. If you see this symbol on your dashboard, get yourself to garage. 

Airbag

If the airbag warning light turns red, it can mean there’s a malfunction with one of the airbags. As they are one of your car’s most important safety features, you should stop as soon as possible and take your car to the garage. 

If you see an amber warning light, this will appear when there is no one sat in the front passenger seat and because of this, it will not deploy in the event of an accident. But when someone does sit it in the passenger seat, this warning light will disappear, and the airbag will deploy in an accident.  

Battery Charge

This dashboard light means that the battery is not charging, something is draining its charge or there is a wider issue with the electrical system. This should be checked out as soon as possible to prevent an unexpected breakdown. 

Brake Pad Monitor

This symbol means that the system has determined the brake pads are too thin, and they need changing. 

It is safe to drive with this warning light on for a short amount of time. However, the car should be taken to a garage as soon as possible. 

Brake System/Brake Fluid

This car warning light suggests there is a fault with the brakes. Before checking anything else, make sure that your handbrake is fully released. 

If this does not resolve the issue and the symbol is still showing, it is likely to be a more significant problem. For this reason, drive to the nearest garage immediately, avoiding roadside breakdown. 

Broken Bulb

This warning symbol indicates that a bulb in one of your lights needs replacing. As it is illegal to drive with a faulty or broken headlight, it’s important to change the bulb as soon as you can. 

Change Oil

This dashboard light will notify you that your engine oil needs changing. You can do this yourself by checking your owner’s manual, and it is advisable to do it when you can to avoid causing engine damage. 

Cruise Control

The cruise control symbol will light up if the system has been turned on. Cruise control helps drivers to maintain a constant speed. 

If the light is orange, a speed hasn’t been chosen yet. If the light turns green, a speed has been selected. 

DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid)

This warning light usually affects truck drivers and indicates that the DEF needs changing. 

Whilst it is safe to drive with this symbol showing, you should avoid doing so if you can. The reason is that the DEF reduces the emissions produced by a diesel engine. 

Doors Ajar

This dashboard symbol is visible when the system detects one of the doors isn’t closing properly. On certain cars, it will also indicate which door is open. So, when it is safe, stop the car and close the open door. 

Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

A DPF is found in diesel cars and is used to capture exhaust soot, which reduces emissions. 

The DPF warning symbol displaying on your dashboard could mean the filter needs changing. To make sure it doesn’t, try driving around for ten minutes at high speeds (over 40mph), but if this doesn’t fix the problem, take your car to a garage, as there may be damage that has been caused to the engine. 

Electronic Throttle Control

If this warning light comes on, it suggests that the accelerator is faulty. It is best to get it checked quicky at a local garage. 

Engine Cooling System

When this symbol appears, your car may be overheating, and the coolant level could be low. 

To prevent the car from further overheating and suffering lasting damage, it is advised to call a breakdown service or garage to investigate the issue for you. 

Engine Management

If you see this warning light come on, you need to have your car checked by a mechanic as soon as you can. This is to avoid lasting damage to the catalytic converter or DPF. 

Engine Oil Pressure/Level

When this light comes up on your dashboard, it suggests there’s a problem with your oil supply or pressure. 

If this warning symbol shows, it is advisable to go to the nearest garage or petrol station and get the engine oil level checked. If after filling up with oil the light still shows, contact a breakdown service or garage immediately. 

Fog Light

This symbol means your fog lights are on. 

Fuel Level

This indicates the fuel level is low and you need to go to a petrol station and refill.

Glow Plug

This warning light is found in diesel cars and if it illuminates, it suggests that the plugs are warming up. 

If this happens, the engine should not be started until the light goes off. If it starts flashing, it means that an issue has been detected, which is when you need to take your car to the garage to get checked. 

Overdrive

If this light comes on and stays on, then all is well as this means the overdrive is off.

If the light is blinking it means that there is something wrong with the car’s transmission, and you will need to visit a mechanic.

Petrol Cap

This symbol means that the petrol cap has not been secured correctly. The best practice is to pull over, when it is safe, and make sure it is correctly fastened.  .

Power Steering System

On hydraulic power systems, this warning light can indicate low fluid levels. 

In a car with an electric system, restarting the engine can often turn the light off. When the power assist is disabled, steering can become difficult. If this happens, have your vehicle checked by a professional engineer. 

Rear Windscreen Heater

This warning light means that the rear defroster is turned on to clear moisture and condensation, which improves visibility. A flashing light can indicate a potential deeper issue. 

Reduced Power

Also known as ‘limp home mode,’ this warning light means the onboard computers have detected a potentially serious fault, which has meant the engine’s power has been reduced to prevent further damage. 

To fix this problem, you need to go to a garage immediately. 

Seatbelt

When this symbol lights up, it means one of the passengers does not have their seatbelt on. A chiming or beeping sound may accompany the light. If you see this warning symbol, make sure everyone has their seatbelt fastened correctly. 

Security Warning Light

When this warning light is lit up, it indicates an issue with the anti-theft system. 

While it is safe to drive with this symbol showing, you should get your car checked at a garage as soon as possible to avoid any potential security issues. 

Service Vehicle

This symbol may come on when your car detects a fault that requires professional maintenance. Whatever the reason, get your car checked to ensure there are no serious issues. 

Traction Control

The traction control system helps your vehicle in difficult conditions. If the light switches on automatically, it has detected a loss of traction. 

If the light does not illuminate in slippery conditions, it is best to get the car looked at, as there may be a fault with the system. 

Traction Control Malfunction

If this symbol ever lights up, it means that your traction control system is not functioning correctly. 

If this happens, get this looked at as soon as possible, to ensure your car will be safe to drive on slippery surfaces. 

Transmission Failure

This car warning light means that the automatic transmission system has failed. Automatic transmissions are expensive to replace and the longer you drive with a fault, the greater the damage you can cause. 

You should get your car checked as soon as you can, to minimise any further damage. 

Tyre Pressure Sensor/Monitor

If the tyre pressure warning light appears, it can suggest that your tyre pressure is too low, creating unsafe driving conditions. 

Stop at a petrol station or garage to check the pressure and adjust it if necessary. If this does not solve the issue, you will need to visit a garage. 

Washer Fluid Level

When this light illuminates on your dashboard, it means the washer fluid is low and needs to be refilled.  

Being able to tell what each of your car warning lights means makes an enormous difference when you are driving. If you see your brake warning light illuminated on your dashboard, making sure you have checked your brake fluid can avoid a trip to your local garage.