What All the Symbols on Your Car’s Dashboard Mean
We’ve all been there: You’re driving along the freeway, enjoying the views, and all of a sudden, you hear a beep—you look down, and a symbol appears on your dashboard. You start to wonder what could be wrong.
Some symbols on your car’s dashboard are more obvious than others. However, it’s important to know exactly what they mean in case you need to pull over and call for help. At Virginia Tire & Auto, your safety is our No. 1 priority. That’s why we’re breaking down your dashboard, symbol by symbol.
15 Common Warning Lights on Your Car’s Dashboard
1. Oil Pressure Light
This old fashioned oil can image indicates that there is an issue with your car’s oil pressure system. Either you’re running low on oil or your oil pump isn’t circulating enough fluid to properly lubricate the surfaces inside your vehicle. This should be addressed as soon as possible, as your engine can wear quickly without proper lubrication.
2. Tire Pressure Warning Light
Also known as the TPMS symbol, this image signals that the pressure in one or more of your tires is too low or too high and needs to be addressed. Driving on low- or high-pressure tires is unsafe and can cause additional damage to your vehicle. Usually, tire pressure should be between 30 and 35 psi (pounds per square inch).
3. Engine Temperature Warning
If you see this symbol pop up, it means that your engine is overheated. This most likely has to do with your coolant (also called antifreeze), but it can happen for a variety of reasons. It’s important to address this immediately to avoid further damage.
4. Traction Control Light
This indicates that your vehicle’s traction control system is activated. The traction control system utilizes your anti-lock brake system to determine if one wheel is spinning faster than another. If it detects that a wheel is slipping, it applies the brakes until it regains traction. This is most helpful if you’re driving in rain or snow.
5. Anti-lock Brake Warning Light
Speaking of your anti-lock brakes, if this “ABS” warning lights up while you’re driving, it means that something is wrong with the system. As you know, your anti-lock brakes work to keep your car in contact with the road safely, so it’s important to diagnose the issue as soon as possible. Keep in mind, every time you turn on your vehicle, the system does a self-check, and may light up for just a few seconds. If it goes away immediately, your system is in working order.
6. Traction Control Malfunction
This light indicates that your vehicle’s traction control system might have a broken or damaged sensor or some other malfunction. In some cars, the same control module operates the anti-lock brakes and the traction control system, so the light sometimes comes on when there are problems with your ABS.
7. Engine Warning (Check Engine Light)
Your check engine light may appear for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it can indicate a serious issue and require you to pull over immediately. This could indicate low oil pressure or overheating. Other times, this light will appear if your gas cap is open, loose, or cracked, causing fuel to evaporate.
If this light appears, it’s wise to pull over and check your gas cap and other systems in your vehicle. If it’s flashing, you should definitely stop driving! In most vehicles, a flashing check engine light signals that you have a serious problem that could cause serious damage if ignored.
8. Battery Alert
This symbol indicates that there is an issue with the vehicle’s charging system. Interestingly enough, the culprit might not be your battery. While it might indicate that you have a loose or damaged battery cable, it can also signal that your alternator belt is broken. If it is your battery, occasionally you’ll notice that your clock is fading or your headlights are dimming. If you wait too long, your vehicle can completely conk out. This is what has happened when you see fellow drivers “jumping” each other’s cars.
Not sure what the problem is? Our experts can help diagnose any battery-related or electrical issues, and if you need a new battery, we offer America’s No. 1 battery replacement—Interstate Batteries.
9. Low Fuel Indicator
Most drivers are very familiar with this symbol. It simply means you’re running low on gas. It’s not a good idea to see if you can make it home if you have a ways to go. You never know how weather or traffic patterns will play out, so it’s best to stop at the nearest gas station and fill up!
10. Automatic Shift Lock or Engine Start Indicator
If you see this symbol, you’re most likely trying to shift gears or start your ignition without engaging the brake. The automatic shift lock will lock your vehicle in park or neutral until you engage the brake.
11. Seat Belt Reminder
This symbol is simply reminding you or your passenger to buckle up! According to the CDC, seat belts decrease serious crash-related injuries by about 50%.
12. Airbag Indicator
The airbag indicator signals that something is wrong with one of your airbags or the system as a whole. Your car’s airbags keep you safe during accidents, so it’s important to address this issue immediately.
13. Security Light
If your vehicle has an anti-theft system, this image means that something could be malfunctioning. This symbol also briefly lights up when you turn your vehicle on, which isn’t an indicator that something is wrong.
14. Fog Lamp Indicator
This symbol is telling you that your fog lights are on. Fog lights should only be used if your visibility is less than 100 meters. If you turn them on unnecessarily, this can be detrimental to other drivers on the road.
15. Washer Fluid Indicator
Imitating the motion of your windshield wipers, this symbol means that you’re low on washer fluid. You’ll want to fill up the reservoir with fluid as soon as you can.
Keep in mind that every car is different, so the symbols on your dashboard may vary slightly from the 15 we’ve mentioned. If in doubt, consult your vehicle’s owners manual!
Whether you need a simple oil change or a more serious repair, bring your vehicle into Virginia Tire & Auto. Our expert technicians will diagnose and repair the issue so you can get back on the road safely. Schedule an appointment at one of our 17 locations today!