What Do the Various Dashboard Lights on Your Car Mean?

Modern vehicles have a variety of dashboard symbols to indicate when something is wrong or what is included with the vehicle. However, there isn’t a full list and manufacturers can change the icons as they see fit. In general, though, you can expect the color and icon to tell you what is going on. If you’re driving down the road, it is imperative that you pull over to check the manual if you can’t remember what the light indicates.



Usually, a red light indicates that something needs your immediate attention; it can also warn that you shouldn’t continue driving the vehicle. Yellow and amber lights usually mean that the issue should be checked, but it’s not dire or urgent. Some indicator lights are designed to let you know that the systems are working. The traction control light will flicker amber as you’re driving down a slippery road, for instance. Green indicator lights let you know that the particular system is working and turned on.

Check Engine Light

Of course, the most common (and most well-known) of the indicator lights is the check-engine light. It’s usually amber in color, and while it looks scary and is likely to make your heart skip a beat, it usually isn’t serious. There are endless reasons why this light can come on, such as routine maintenance (spark plugs, oxygen sensors, mass airflow sensors and more). In some cars, it can also indicate that the gas cap isn’t tightened correctly (though some newer cars have a separate indicator light for the gas cap).

It’s best to take the vehicle to a mechanic or an auto-parts retailer with a code reader to see what is wrong and get it fixed when time permits.

Service Engine Soon

The ‘Service Engine Soon’ light can be orange, red, or amber and might show up as words or a car with a wrench icon. It signals that there is a problem somewhere in the vehicle’s engine system, which is a significant system. It’s best to have the car inspected as soon as possible.

Temperature Warning

The engine temperature warning light has wavy lines at the bottom with a picture of a thermometer. Its color is red, and it means you should stop driving as soon as it is safe to pull off the road and shut off the engine. This means that the engine is too hot. Many things can cause an overheated engine, and most of them are relatively easy to fix. However, if you continue driving, you can cause significant damage.

Security Light

Newer vehicles usually have an anti-theft system in place. This indicator light is usually red or amber, and the icon looks like a vehicle with a padlock in the middle. It indicates that the wrong key is being used or there’s an issue with the anti-theft/security system. You may also have a separate indicator light that blinks when you’ve locked the vehicle, indicating that the security system is on and working.

Steering System

The Automatic Steering/Power Steering system light can be red or yellow, and it usually has a picture of a steering wheel with an exclamation point (!) to let you know something is wrong with the steering. Your vehicle can have one of two systems: electric and hydraulic. If you have a hydraulic system and the light comes on, it might indicate you’re out of power steering fluid. Make sure to refill the reservoir and see if there is a leak. If your system is electric, a mechanic must diagnose the issue.

Engaging Sentence: It’s important to know what the dashboard lights of the vehicle mean so that you can be prepared and not panic when one comes on while driving.


What Do the Various Dashboard Lights on Your Car Mean?

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