Dashboard Warning Lights tell us something is wrong. Most of the time we don’t know what the lights/symbols truly represent so I have decided to write this article to educate drivers so that you can better understand issues with your car and explain problems to your mechanic like a boss…
Unlike cars that come with a manual, babies don’t come with a manual so you just have to guess what the problem is. Soup
As a new dad I like to quote my buddy ‘Soup’ on a phrase he used to say a few years ago before I became a dad; Soup would say that unlike cars that come with a manual, babies dont come with one so you just have to guess what the issue is. His point was it’s much easier to look after a car than a baby because at least with a car you can learn issues fro the manual. We all know very few people actually read car manuals because, let’s face it – the writing is too small and they are not exactly exciting books! Over the next while we will post car tips written by professionals and other content contributors. PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR ARTICLES DO NOT REPLACE THE NEED FOR A MECHANIC, they merely help you speak a similar language therefore will ensure you can better inform your mechanic enabling him or her to offer you better service.
Almost every new car now comes with OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics 2). This is a fault-registering system connected to sensors all over the car, engine, fuel and emissions system. There are something like 4,000 unique OBD2 codes that can be stored. Handheld OBD2 diagnostic tools can be plugged in to the OBD2 port which is normally under the dash on the driver’s side. These tools can read out the fault code and/or reset the system to contain no codes. Codes are split into two categories – historical/inactive, and active. The historical codes are lists of things that have been detected in the past but are no longer an issue, whilst the active codes are things that are a problem right now. Codes are subdivided into B-codes (body), C-codes (chassis) and the biggest list of all – P-codes (powertrain).
Check Engine Light
The engine light illuminates when the ignition is switched on. It should switch-off or extinguish as soon as the engine starts. If it illuminates with the engine running, it indicates a malfunction with the engine management system. Have this checked as soon as possible.
If it flashes when driving, reduce the vehicle speed immediately until the light illuminates constantly. If it continues to flash, avoid heavy acceleration and high engine speed, stop the vehicle and have it checked immediately. You can also try switching off the engine, wait two minutes, then restarting the engine to reset the engine management system.
The battery light should illuminate when the ignition is switched on and should go off as soon as the engine starts. If it does not illuminate at all, or if it illuminates while driving, your battery is not being charged as there is a fault with your charging system. In most cases it could be a result of slack battery or starter terminal, a broken or loose alternator drive belt or an alternator failure. If the drive belt is broken, it must be replaced before you restart the engine. The coolant system may rely on this belt and its failure could cause the engine to overheat, in turn causing expensive engine damage. Seek assistance immediately – do no start the engine.
Oil Pressure Warning
The engine oil warning light should go on when the ignition is switched on and should go off as soon as the engine starts. Typically this light will stay on if your oil pressure is too low. Low oil pressure is serious and if you continue to drive with this light on, eventually your engine will die. Low oil pressure can be caused by a failed oil pump, a blocked oil filter or strainer in the sump, or by low oil levels.
When the ignition is switched on, the ABS light illuminates briefly to confirm that the system is operational. If it comes on, get it seen to as soon as possible. It means the ABS computer has diagnosed that something is amiss in the system. It could be something as simple as dirt in one of the sensors, or something as costly as an entire ABS unit replacement. Compared to a steady light, a blinking ABS light normally indicates something more serious. In some cases it could be as bad as “you have no brakes at all.”
Break Warning Light
The break light will remain illuminated when the handbrake is engaged. Illumination after releasing the handbrake may indicate low brake fluid level. If the light remains illuminated, even though the brake fluid level is correct, this may indicate a sensor fault. Take your vehicle to a dealer or garage as soon as possible.
Coolant or Engine Warning Light
If you see the coolant light 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 bonnet and top up if necessary. DO NOT OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP WHEN THE ENGINE IS HOT! The coolant system is pressurised and it could easily release pressure and spray you with boiling coolant. Do it when the engine is cold. Don’t use tap water – the mineral deposits in it boil out in the cooling system and calcium gets depositted around the inside of the radiator making it less efficient (which will eventually cause it to fail).
This light alerts you that you are running low on fuel. Fun fact: The symbol on the fuel gauge also has an arrow next to it indicating which side of the car has the gas cap. No more service station three-point turns in rental or borrowed cars ever again.
The seatbelt warning light simply reminds you to buckle up so you can be safe on the road in the event of an accident.
The airbag warning light alerts you that they may be an issue with one or more of your car’s airbags, or the airbag system in general. You must have this checked by a professional a your earliest convenience.
Tire Pressure Warning
When this light comes on, you should be aware that there is a tire with low pressure or a sensor malfunction. Some vehicle models will allow you to manually reset the TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) warning light; but for other models, you have to seek the services of a professional.
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