Proper vehicle maintenance is important if you want to keep your car running strong for thousands and thousands of miles to come. That includes paying attention to some of the most obvious signs that something is wrong with your vehicle — your dashboard lights. When you notice a symbol illuminated on your dash, it’s helpful to know what it means and what you need to do to take care of a potential issue.
Check Engine Light
The check engine light, which is in the shape of an engine block, is one of the most worrisome but also one of the hardest to pin down. If your CEL is on, it can mean anything from a loose gas cap to a wiring issue to a bigger problem with the engine. When this light comes on and stays solid, you can continue driving but should schedule a visit with a certified technician as soon as possible.
If the check engine light is flashing, however, you may want to stop driving and have your vehicle towed to your nearest service center right away. A flashing light alerts you to a more substantial issue, like a misfire or a problem with your catalytic convertor.
Anti-Lock Brake System Light
Appearing as a circle around the letters “ABS,” this light indicates a malfunction with the vehicle’s anti-lock brake system. ABS is critical for stopping safely in inclement weather, reducing the likelihood of skidding. While your brakes will continue to work when this light is illuminated, you should have your vehicle serviced as soon as possible for optimal braking performance and safety.
Traction Control System
The traction control system, like your ABS, helps you maintain traction to drive safely in rainy or icy conditions. If you see a symbol that shows the rear of a vehicle with two Z-shaped squiggles behind it flashing while driving on slippery surfaces, it just means the system is doing what it’s supposed to. If it stays on solidly or appears while driving in fair conditions, you may have an issue with your wheel speed sensor or the system as a whole.
In most cases, you won’t see the battery light — easily identifiable as a battery with plus and minus symbols — until your vehicle has trouble starting or fails to start. This symbol can mean that your battery is not holding a charge and needs replaced, but it can also point to an issue with the charging system. If this light comes on while driving, it might point to an issue with the alternator or battery corrosion. Whatever the case, the smart play is to get your vehicle in for a battery test and diagnosis sooner rather than later.
Temperature Warning Light
This light looks like a thermometer and typically means your engine is overheating. This might be caused by low coolant, which you can pull over and check once your vehicle has safely cooled down If the coolant levels appear normal, or if your engine appears to be smoking, it might be best to call for a tow to avoid damaging the engine. If you see this light after starting your car and it goes away quickly, it simply means that your engine was cold and has warmed up to optimal temperature.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System Light
Most newer vehicles have a tire pressure monitoring system, which lets you know when you have too little air in one or more tires. This symbol, which looks like a horseshoe with tread on the bottom and an exclamation point in the middle, means that you’ll want to stop at an air pump station and check the pressure levels in your tires. You can find proper air pressure numbers in your owner’s manual. If the light stays on or comes on again after refilling, have your tires inspected for leaks.
Low Fuel Light
One of the most common emergency lights is the low fuel light. Usually represented by a gas pump or the letter E at the end of your fuel gauge, this warns you that your vehicle is almost out of fuel. When you stop to fill up, you might notice an arrow on either side of the gas pump icon. That tells you which side of the vehicle the fuel door is on.
Oil Pressure Warning
This symbol, which resembles an old-school oil can, tells you that there’s an issue with your vehicle’s oil pressure. One common cause is low engine oil, so check your levels (once your car has had time to cool off) as well as for signs of leaks. If this doesn’t seem to be the cause, you might have an issue with your engine. Try to minimize driving until you can get your vehicle in for a diagnosis.
Airbag Warning Light
It’s normal for the airbag warning light to turn on momentarily when you start the vehicle. But if the light stays on, it could mean an issue with your car’s airbag system or the seatbelt pretensioner system. One cause could be having a bag in your passenger seat, which means that the seat sensor detects weight but not enough to deploy airbags in the event of a crash.
If any of these emergency lights come on in your vehicle and you have questions or need service tips, contact us at Tipton Auto Group.
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