Have you ever seen a mystery symbol light up on your vehicle’s dashboard and found yourself frantically searching through the owner’s manual to find out what it means? Let’s take a look at 15 dashboard warning lights that you’re most likely to see — and what steps you should take when you do.
The 15 most common dashboard warning lights
Red: There may be an immediate safety risk if you continue driving. Pull over and address the issue (or call your mechanic) before getting back on the road.
Yellow or orange: Your vehicle should likely be serviced soon. Proceed with caution and contact your mechanic as soon as possible.
Green or blue: The system indicated is currently active. Your vehicle likely doesn’t require service right now.
White: The standard colour for most other lighting in your vehicle.
Airbags: There’s a problem with one of your airbags or another safety restraint system (like a seatbelt), and it may fail to deploy in a collision.
Anti-lock braking system: There’s an issue with your anti-lock braking system. You’ll still be able to brake, but the ABS function may be disabled.
Brakes: There’s a problem with your brakes. It could be as simple as forgetting to turn off your parking brake, so make sure it’s disengaged.
Charging system: Something is wrong with your battery or the alternator (the system that sends a charge to the battery), and it may cause your vehicle to stop running.
Check engine: This could light up for a number of reasons, from a loose or missing fuel cap to a problem with your engine.
Cruise control: Your cruise control system is on. (Sometimes this is replaced with an icon that simply says cruise or cruise control.)
Doors: One or more of your doors are open. Safely pull over and check that your doors and trunk are closed.
Engine temperature: The temperature of your engine is too high. Safely pull over and turn off your vehicle as soon as possible, then contact your mechanic.
Fuel: Your gas tank is almost empty. Head to your nearest gas station.
High beams: Your high beam headlights are turned on. If there are other drivers coming towards you, turn them off.
Oil pressure or oil level: Your engine is low on oil, or there’s a problem with the oil pressure system.
Seat belts: Make sure everyone in your vehicle is safely buckled up.
Tire pressure: Your tire pressure may be too high or too low. Make sure that your tire pressure matches the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Traction control system: This light may flash on and off while you’re driving in slippery conditions, indicating the vehicle’s traction control system is active — drive carefully.
Windshield Washer Fluid: Your windshield washer fluid is low. Fill up your tank with a weather-appropriate formula as soon as possible.
While dashboard warning lights may vary by manufacturer, the symbols, colours, and meanings are generally consistent. Consult your owner’s manual for specific details about the symbols in your own vehicle.