What Do the Lights on My Dashboard Mean?

In today’s cars there are more dashboard lights than ever to alert drivers about possible problems – problems you need to take care of asap. If you are like me and don’t know much more than the gas light, here is a quick guide to common dashboard warning lights and symbols.

This post is sponsored by Rochester Hills Dodge Chrysler Jeep Dealer Troy, Pontiac


In newer cars the lit icon will look just like an engine; it means the vehicle’s computer noticed a diagnostic trouble code which means there is an issue. If it just occasionally comes on and off, it’s probably something not quite as urgent, and you can have them check it the next time you go in for an oil change or maintenance.
BUT if it stays on – that’s a problem. It could be something as simple as the gas cap not being closed tightly enough , or it  could be something major. If the light stays on – GET IT CHECKED OUT. If it flashes, it’s probably super serious and you need to get to a repair shop or mechanic immediately. 


Ok,I might know this one too. The dashboard lights look like a tire with an exclamation point which means tire pressure in at least one of the tires is low and needs inflated. Be sure to check the tire pressure asap


This dashboard light stand for the Tire Pressure Monitoring System and when it comes on there is an actual problem with the monitoring system. Probably a failed sensor on one of the wheels – this doesn’t necessarily mean that your tires need air – the TPMS just keeps track of the air pressure, so if the light is on, something in the tire needs fixed, so that when you do have low tire pressure, it can let you know.


If you see a dashboard light that looks like an oil can, you need to pull over ASAP. This signals the loss of oil pressure, which means you could be losing oil (which is never good). So be sure to pull over immediately and check.


A warning dashboard light that looks like a thermometer means the engines temp is beyond normal limits, and needs checked immediately. This light helps warm you so that your car doesn’t overheat. You will want to check the  coolant level and make sure the radiator cap is properly sealed, and also look for any coolant leaks. ALWAYS LEAVE TIME FOR THE ENGINE TO COOL DOWN BEFORE CHECKING or you could be burned.


When the dashboard light looks like a battery, that means your voltage level is below normal. Somewhere the vehicle’s charging system isn’t working properly, so you need to have the battery terminal and alternator and alternator belt checked. If it’s an older battery, it may need to be replaced.


The  dashboard light that looks like a circle inside a set of parenthesis with an exclamation point in the middle represents your brake system – and if it comes on while you are driving, you need to definitely pay attention. It could be triggered by driving with your parking brake on, or it  can mean you are losing brake fluid – both which are bad. If it comes off and on, and you don’t notice a difference in your brakes, just make an appointment with your mechanic or service shop as soon as possible. If it stays on , I would recommend having it towed to the repair shop. 



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