Since the invention of the first automobile safety light in 1933, cars have been telling us what’s wrong. Your car can “talk” to you through a language system of lighted symbols that can tell you what it needs right now, or what must be looked after soon. Trouble is, dashboard displays have grown more elaborate, and unless you crack open your car owner’s manual (and you really should) you might not have a clue what your car needs. So, what do the car dashboard warning lights mean? I’ve crafted this handy guide to help y’all interpret the signs that your car is flashing at you.
Tire Pressure Warning Light
A partial circle resting on a bumpy base and containing an exclamation point, the tire pressure warning light is a frontal view of a tire. This light flicks on when your tires are under- or overinflated. Fancier cars will tell you the exact difference in pressure for each tire, but most leave it to you to check the pressure with a tire gauge. Pull over to a gas station or anywhere else that has a pump, check the pressure, and inflate or deflate the tires accordingly. When you restart the vehicle, the light should turn off. If it persists, y’all need to bring your car in to have the tires inspected and serviced.
Fuel Indicator and Oil Pressure Warning Lights
You probably already know these two. The fuel indicator resembles a gas pump, while the oil pressure indicator looks like Aladdin’s lamp. When the fuel indicator turns on, it’s time to find a gas station and pump it up. As a side note, the little arrow beside the symbol indicates which side the gas cap is on. As for the oil pressure warning light, it’s red for a reason—to tell you to investigate it immediately. You’re either running low on oil or something else is broken, worn, or leaking. If topping it off doesn’t turn off the light, bring your car in for a checkup.
Traction Control Light
Your traction control light may come on for any number of reasons. Firstly, it may indicate what you’re already feeling—a loss of traction and control on a wet, icy, or otherwise slippery road, which can be temporary but may indicate your tires are losing traction. It can also indicate that your antilock braking system is faulty, or that the speed sensors in your wheels or the steering angle sensors are faulty.
Check Engine Light
Ah, the eternally befuddling engine light. It can be tricky to understand what the car dashboard warning light means. Don’t follow Homer Simpson’s example and cover it with a piece of black tape. The engine light is kind of a catch-all, letting you know there’s an issue with the system that can turn into a bigger problem. Some are simple fixes, like tightening your gas cap. If it’s accompanied by loud noises or poor handling, get the car towed to the shop and have it looked at ASAP.