Skip to content
Dash Warning Lights: What Do They Mean?

Dash Warning Lights: What Do They Mean?

Are you familiar with dashboard lights? Oftentimes referred to as dash warning lights or dashboard warning lights, these symbols are very important to recognize and understand. Chances are, you’ve been driving for quite some time. Therefore, you likely know what your LED dash lights are and what they mean—the main ones, anyway.

For example, you know when your car is telling you to put gas into it, right? You are also most likely aware when you need to put air in your tires or check the coolant and windshield fluid. However, there are many other, very important indicators that you should fully understand. These indicators include airbag warnings, engine lights and more.

Though it can be argued that some dash warning lights symbols are more important than others, in reality, you should be aware of all lights and what they mean. Additionally, when these lights do appear, you should not ignore them. Instead, you should deal with them accordingly, and for the most part, take your vehicle to a professional mechanic to check.

After all, when your car speaks to you, you should always listen. When a dash warning light appears, your car is basically talking to you—so listen up!

Below, you will find a list of dash warning light symbols, what they mean exactly, and how to respond. We’ll also educate you on why these lights are so vital to road safety, and how switching to LED dash lights could prove to be beneficial.

Dash Warning Lights—What They Mean

As previously stated, you most likely already know what some of your dash warning lights mean. Regardless if you consider yourself overly knowledgeable about vehicles or not, there are some symbols that are completely self-explanatory. However, there are also plenty of other dash warning lights that are not so easy to understand, but this fact doesn’t make them any less necessary to pay attention to when they appear.

Take a look at the following warning signs and what they mean:

Check Engine Or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL): This light generally indicates something is wrong with your engine. Specifically, the engine computer has set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC), which usually requires a diagnosis with a professional scan tool.

Coolant Temp Warning: When this light appears, it generally means the temperature of your vehicle has exceeded its normal limits. When this indicator comes on, there are a variety of issues that could be at fault, such as coolant levels, fan operation, radiator cap, and coolant leaks.

Battery/Charging Alert: This warning sign means your voltage level is below normal level and the car’s charging system is not function correctly. In order to correct this issue, check your battery terminals, alternator belt, and battery condition.

Transmission Temperature: This warning generally means that your transmission fluid is hotter than normal, and as a result, your transmission is operating at a higher than optimum temperature. You will need to check both your transmission fluid level and engine coolant level.

Oil Pressure Warning: Not only will this indicator come on, but it will likely stay on. If this happens, your vehicle is telling you it’s losing oil pressure. An important warning, you should instantly check your oil level and pressure.

Oil Change Reminder: This indicator is letting you know that the life of your oil has expired. Often measured by mileage or a combination of readings taken by the ECM, you can resent this warning sign with the assistance of your owner’s manual. However, if this warning light does come on, for safety measures, check the level of your oil. Also, be aware of how long it’s been since your last oil change.

Service Vehicle Soon: This warning light could mean a number of things, though generally indicates either a lighting or other electrical problem that is controlled by the body control module. You will need to check the headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights. Don’t take this warning lightly—something could seriously be wrong with your vehicle, making it unsafe to drive.

TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System): This sign lets you know that one or more of your tires has low air pressure. Therefore, check the air pressure of your tires, and add air as needed.

Brake System: This dash light warning could mean three different things, including an alert that the parking brake is on; an issue with the braking system (i.e. brake fluid level is low); or an ABS problem. You can manually check the brake fluid, as well as whether or not the parking brake is set. If the warning light remains on, it is likely an ABS problem and will need to be handled professionally.

Reduced Power Warning: This warning illuminates when the engine’s computer has a limited amount of engine power output. You will likely have to take your car to a professional mechanic, as a diagnosis with a professional scan tool is often necessary.

ABS Light: Your anti-lock brake computer has set a code and will need a professional diagnosis.

Gas Cap: One of the easier, less crucial warning lights, this simply indicates the gas cap is not properly on, or it’s not tight enough. Yet, if you don’t address this issue promptly, it could sensor your check engine light.

Cruise Control: This light shows if the cruise control option is set or not.

ESP Fault: This warning light means something is wrong with the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system.

Security Alert: This symbol will light momentarily, alerting you that your vehicle’s ignition switch is locked and will need the proper transponder-equipped key before it can restart. If the symbol is visible, then the vehicle is on, indicating some sort of malfunction in the security system.

Lamp Out: This sign means that there is an exterior light somewhere on the vehicle that is not functioning properly.

Traction Control or ESP: This symbol illuminates when the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system is in use. More times than not, this warning sign means that road conditions are slippery and that you should take extra caution.

Door Aja: This sign means that either a door, hood, or trunk is not fully closed. Make sure to always close every single door, as well as the hood and trunk of the vehicle. If a door is open overnight, your battery will get drained, requiring a jump start.

Overdrive Light: This is a sign informing you that the automobile’s overdrive system has been manually turned off. The overdrive system is generally controlled by an on/off switch.

Airbag Fault: If this light comes on, then your car is trying to tell you that a fault has been found in the airbag system, and the computer has set a code. In order to correct this issue, a professional repair of the supplemental restraint system is recommended.

Washer Fluid Reminder: This symbol simple indicates that your washer fluid is low. You will need to fill your washer fluid reservoir. An easy task, just make sure to find the correct cap, the one that has a picture on it that looks like a windshield.

Fog Lamp: If this light comes on, then your car’s front fog lamps are illuminated.

The next three warning symbols can only be found on diesel vehicles.

Glow Plug: This symbol means that the vehicle’s engine glow plugs are warming up and that the engine should not be started until this light goes off again.

PDF Light: This symbol indicates that the diesel exhaust particulate filter has failed its test, and therefore must be serviced immediately.

DEF Light: This warning sign is letting you know that your diesel exhaust fluid reservoir is low on fluid.

Use Your Owner’s Manual

Whether or not you purchased your vehicle brand new or pre-owned, it is very likely that the vehicle came with an owner’s manual. Never be afraid to look at and use this manual—in fact, you should make it a point to at least go through it and somewhat familiarize yourself with it.

If you’re not a car fanatic, then chances are, you’re not going to care too much about this manual. However, the owner’s manual can be very helpful, especially when it comes to deciding what your dash lights mean and how important they are.

Of course, you don’t have to read the manual cover to cover, or memorize it. But it is important to be aware of the manual, and keep it someplace where it’s easy to locate, such as the glove box, if you ever need it.

LED Dash Lights—Learn the Benefits

Now that you are more familiar with dash lights and what their symbols mean, it is necessary to inform you how you could possibly benefit from switching your current dash lights out with LED dash lights.

For starters, LED lights tend to last longer than regular lights. Therefore, it’s easy to see how LED lights can save you both time and money, as you won’t have to replace them as often as other lights. Better yet, LED lights are brighter, offer better quality, and make it easier to see your dash.

Now, you may think it’s difficult to replace your dash lights with LED lights, but the task is relatively easy. Though, if you don’t think you’re up for the challenge, you can always take your vehicle to a professional.

Remember, dash lights are a serious component of your vehicle, so don’t take this subject lightly.

Dash Lights—Stay Aware

After reading this article, you should have no doubts about dash lights and their ability to help keep drivers both safe and informed. When you ignore these warning signs, you put yourself and everyone else on the road at risk, so make sure to pay attention to what your vehicle is telling you. While some symbols are more important than others, it’s better for you and your car to deal with warning lights as soon as they come on.

Though it’s likely you already know this, especially if you’ve been driving for quite some time, but ignoring the warning lights will not make them go away. Further, if your car is trying to tell you that there is a serious problem, like with the brakes or engine, that problem will only get worse. If you fix the issue as soon as you’re alerted of it, then you don’t run the risk of further damage to your vehicle.

If you think you’re up to handle the procedure, there are a variety of helpful tools at your disposal.

First, you can read our previous blog on the process, which will give you a list of tools required to get the job done, as well as a step by step process. You can also visit YouTube to find actual videos and step by step tutorials of people making the switch. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to find a video where the car is the same or similar model to your own. Because, yes, the make and model of your car will factor into the work.

Finally, you can also find images online, images depicting the entire process, allowing you to see whether or not you are performing the task correctly. Even if you are 100 percent sure you know what you’re doing, it is still recommended to have videos and pictures nearby, just to double check your work. After all, it’s best to ensure that you are doing the task correctly, versus discovering you’ve messed up along the way or missed a step, requiring you to start over or backtrack.

Again, don’t be afraid to take a look at your owner’s manual for assistance. Your manual may show you specific information about your dash, or particulars on changing dash lights in general, that could prove to be useful. Further, never be afraid to ask for help. You may not be great at car parts and replacing items such as dash lights, but perhaps you know someone who is talented or knowledgeable in that area that could be helpful to you.

Again, look at dash lights and warning symbols this way: Your car is speaking to you, so listen. You may even be surprised to discover that the fix is relatively easy, cheap, and painless. Though, you won’t know until you properly address the issue—so don’t ignore it. Keep you and your passengers safe on the road by utilizing your dash lights.

Previous article Maintenance Tips for Emergency LED Lights