Dash Warning Lights – Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong

Dash Warning Lights - Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong
Dash Warning Lights - Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong

Most Dash warning lights indicate that a fault has occurred inside the vehicle’s system.

So, Dash warning lights provide an idea — sometimes precise, sometimes vague — of what’s wrong with a car.

Also, Dash warning lights are only the messenger to something going on; and does not pinpoint the item or system that has failed.

As a result, Some of the issues are relatively small. But, Some of the issues are major. Unfortunately, there is no way to distinguish between them by just looking at the Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL). So, The only way to find out what’s wrong with the car is to plug in a (OBD) scantool.

Plug In A (OBD) Scantool
Plug In A (OBD) Scantool

So, The scantool and accompanied software can read the Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) from the system. Furthermore, Every time the (OBD) system turns on the  Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) light; it will also store a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) in the electronic control unit. The Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) will give more information about the detected issue. Many parts stores will read the code for free.

Dash warning lights are nothing new, but the messages are. Consequently, There are hundreds of different dash warning lights. The following list of dash warning lights are the most common.

Dash Warning Lights - Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong
Dash Warning Lights – Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong

So, Not all dash warning lights are universal. Always refer to your owner’s manual when you’re not 100% sure what the light indicates.

The More Common Dash Warning Lights You May See With Important Information:


Check Engine Or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL)

A check engine light coming on indicates the engine computer has set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). Usually requires diagnosis with a professional scan tool.

Indicates The Engine Computer Has Set A Diagnostic Trouble Code
Indicates The Engine Computer Has Set A Diagnostic Trouble Code

The Malfunction Indicator Light Can Signal Three Different Types Of Problems:

  1. Occasional flashes indicate temporary engine malfunctions. In this case, it is good to be aware of the possible forthcoming issues; which can later on turn to more serious ones.
  2. The most common case is when the indicator light stays on constantly. This indicates a more serious problem. Yet, sometimes the issues aren’t that serious but can affect the emissions of the vehicle.
  3. The most serious type of signaling is when the (MIL) flashes all the time. It is a sign that your vehicle’s engine is misfiring. Because,The issue is a major one you should stop the engine immediately to prevent serious damage.

Battery/Charging Alert

Most cars have an alternator; along with a voltage regulator; that keeps the battery charged and also provides electricity to the vehicle when the engine is running. A simple circuit looks at the voltage that the alternator is producing; and turns the battery light on if it is low.

As a result, Indicates voltage level is below normal level; and the vehicle’s charging system is not functioning properly. Finally, Check battery terminals, alternator belt, and battery condition.


Coolant Temp Warning

If you see the engine coolant light (ECT) show up on your dashboard; it could mean coolant levels are running low; so check the gauge on the side of the coolant tank under the hood and top up if necessary. In conjunction with a temperature gauge reading well into the red; it could mean your engine is overheating.

A Temperature Gauge Reading Well Into The Red
A Temperature Gauge Reading Well Into The Red

Indicates the temperature has exceeded normal limits and you need to check:

  • Coolant level
  • Fan operation
  • Radiator cap
  • Also coolant leaks

Transmission Temperature

Transmission is operating at higher than optimum temperature as transmission fluid is hotter than normal. Check transmission fluid level and engine coolant level.


Oil Pressure Warning

STOP driving immediately and turn the engine off.

Possible Causes Of Low Oil Pressure Warning Light:

  • A low oil level (check the dipstick)
  • Bad oil pump
  • Defective oil pressure sending unit
  • Oil pressure gauge or warning light switch

If this light stays lit, it indicates loss of oil pressure. Immediately check oil level and pressure.


Oil Change Reminder

This Is Monitored By The (ECM) And Indicates That The Oil Life Has Expired.

So, The interval can be mileage or a combination of readings taken by the (ECM). The owner’s manual lists the reset procedure. Some vehicles require the use of special tools to reset the light.

When you first start the engine, the “oil change due” light should come on; for 1 to 2 seconds and then go out. If the light stays on, the vehicle is due for an oil and filter change.


Service Vehicle Soon

Typically indicates a lighting or other electrical problem that is controlled by the (BCM) (body control module). Check all lights (headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights).

Typically Indicates A Lighting Or Other Electrical Problem
Typically Indicates A Lighting Or Other Electrical Problem

The service vehicle soon light comes on when; there is a fault condition in an area of the vehicle chassis systems such as; the anti-lock (ABS) brake system; the traction control (TCS) system; the electronic suspension system, or the brake hydraulic system.


Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

Consequently, the tire pressure monitoring system has found a tire with low air pressure; or there may be a sensor malfunction. Check tire pressure. In addition, Some vehicles will allow manual reset of (TPMS) warning light and others will require professional diagnosis. Refer to owner’s manual.


Brake System

Indicates one of three possible conditions:

  • Parking brake is on
  • Problem with the braking system/brake fluid is low
  • ABS problem

Finally, If the problem is in the (ABS) system, it may need a professional diagnosis.


Reduced Power Warning

Indicates Engine Computer has limited engine power output.

Dash Warning Lights - Only Provide A Warning Something Is Wrong
Reduced Engine Power Mode Shown On Dashboard

As a result, The (ECM) has many levels of reduced power; depending on what component has failed in its control system. Usually requires diagnosis with a professional scan tool.


Anti-lock Brake Light (ABS)

Indicates that the Anti-lock Brake computer has set a code and needs professional diagnosis.

So, The (ABS) system uses sensors at each wheel to monitor their rotational speed. Furthermore, A computer monitors the signals from all four wheels and the position of the brake pedal; to make sure that the vehicle is stable and under control.

If the computer notices any abnormal signals; or the lack of a signal from any of the sensors; it will turn the (ABS) light on, to alert the driver of an issue. In addition to monitoring the wheel speed sensors; the computer can turn the (ABS) light on for other reasons; like low brake fluid levels or a blown fuse.


Gas Cap

Consequently, If your fuel cap light is on; it means that the computer has detected a leak in the system; typically from a loose gas cap. A leak present somewhere else in the system can also trick the computer into thinking the gas cap is leaking.

If not addressed, quite often the Check Engine Light (CEL) will also illuminate.


Cruise Control

Indicates that cruise control is set during driving.


(ESP) Fault

Indicates that there is a problem with the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system.


Security Alert

So, If the symbol lights momentarily it may mean that the ignition switch is locked; and will need the proper transponder-equipped key to restart.

It May Mean That The Ignition Switch Is Locked
It May Mean That The Ignition Switch Is Locked

If the symbol is visible when the vehicle is on; then it typically indicates a malfunction in the security system.


Lamp Out

Indicates that there is an exterior light on the vehicle that is not functioning properly.


Traction Control or (ESP)

This light Illuminates when the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system is in use. Usually an indicator that conditions are slippery.


Door Ajar

Indicates that a door (including hood and trunk) is not closed. Open and close all doors, including hood and trunk. Consequently, If vehicle is left in this condition overnight it can drain the battery.


Overdrive Light

This symbol indicates that the vehicle’s overdrive system has been manually turned off. Typically the overdrive system is controlled by an on/off switch.


Airbag Fault

So, If this light stays illuminated after starting; it indicates that the vehicle has found a fault in the airbag system; and the computer has set a code.

The Vehicle Has Found A Fault In The Airbag System
The Vehicle Has Found A Fault In The Airbag System

Above all, Professional repair of the supplemental restraint system is highly recommended.


Washer Fluid Reminder

Indicates washer fluid is low. Fill washer fluid reservoir. The cap has a symbol that looks like a windshield. Some vehicles have separate reservoirs for front and rear window washers.


Fog Lamp

Indicates that the vehicle’s front fog lamps are illuminated.


Conclusion

So, It could be something as minor as a faulty sensor or a broken wire. But, it could be something more serious that, if left unchecked; will cause lasting and expensive damage to your vehicle.

Dash warning lights are not going to warn you that:

  • The water pump is about to fail
  • That one of the ball joints is worn out
  • Or even that the A/C is going to stop blowing cold air in mid-August.

Finally, If your car drives, sounds, or smells funny, either fix it or take it to someone who can.

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