Understanding Your Car’s Dashboard Warning Lights

The vehicles we drive every day are complex. They require regular maintenance and careful operation to keep them in great working condition. Of course, there are inevitably times when a light appears on the dash indicating something is wrong. These warnings are represented by their own unique symbol, which may be confusing, especially when they pop up as you’re heading down the road.

As an almost universal feature, most motor vehicles have the same or at least similarly designed emergency lights. While some of these standardized alerts are more serious than others, you still want to be able to gather the vital information each one has to offer.

To start, there are red lights that indicate a “warning” that something needs your immediate attention. Requiring the most urgency, this type of signal could range from a door not being properly closed or low fuel, to an issue with the air bags or seatbelts. Red lights regarding the battery, power steering, transmission and braking system are typically the most hazardous, as they could seriously compromise your safety until the issue is resolved.

Next are amber lights. At times appearing slightly orange or yellow, amber lights suggest an advisory of a problem you need to investigate promptly. Although immediate action might not be necessary, you still need to take action to resolve the problem before it worsens. Examples of these symbols include notices of low fluid levels, such as the low washer fluid or low engine oil symbols. One of the most serious amber warning lights is the check engine light.

Potentially very dangerous yet often overlooked, the check engine light is represented by an engine’s silhouette or may appear as “check engine” in all capital letters. If you see this light is on, you shouldn’t panic, but ought to have the vehicle checked by a trusted mechanic as soon as possible. The alert can signify a range of issues, including engine damage, faulty wirings, an ill-fitting gas cap or ignition system failure.

Lastly, there’s the blue, green and white lights. These are more informational lights and are not as much a cause of concern as the other two categories. These are typically related to safe driving or indicate a feature is switched on, not that there is an issue. For instance, there are several symbols regarding the lights you have turned on, such as the high beams or interior lights. If a notification in one of these colors turns on that you don’t recognize, consult your vehicle’s manual or the Internet before heading into the shop.

Whether you’re a new driver or simply in need of a refresher, it’s best to have a strong working knowledge of your vehicle and all its features. For further examples of the dashboard lights you need to know, please see the accompanying resource by Goodwill Car Donations.

Infographic provided by Goodwill Car Donations, a reputable car donation charity

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