Car Dashboard Warning Lights, Symbols, and Indicators


Automobiles nowadays are quite classy. The basic components of advanced car designs are sensors and multiple electrical wires linking all the components. The car dashboard has multiple warning lights and symbols. In this article, we will get to know about the common car dashboard indicators, warning lights, and symbols.

What are the Car Dashboard Warning Lights?

The main function of the car dashboard warning lights and symbols is to warn the driver about the problems with your car.

All the indicators and lights present on the car dashboard have a specific color. This color scheme shows the seriousness of the problem.

  1. The red light indicates a serious issue or a failure of any component.
  2. The yellow and amber lights are for lower grade warnings, like warning the driver to activate the traction control system whenever the car is on a slippery road.
  3. The white, blue, and green lights show that a specific component or feature of your car is active, like headlights.

car dashboard symbols, car dashboard warning lights

Car Dashboard Symbols and Warning Lights

The symbols of the warning lights and their designs may vary with the model of the car. A symbol may have different meanings in different cars. Thus, it is always recommended to consult the car manual to understand the symbol and its meaning. Some of these symbols indicate serious faults and need instant attention and repair.

Sometimes your car dashboard shows a warning light, and you simply ignore it. This little ignorance may result in a serious and expensive fault in the future. One of the most common problems faced by car owners is not properly understanding the car dashboard warning lights.

The most frequent vehicle dashboard symbols and warning lights are as follows:

1) Check Engine Light

One of the most common car dashboard warning lights is the “Check Engine Light .”The symbol for the check engine light is shaped like a silhouetted engine, but sometimes it may be all capital letters like “CHECK ENGINE.”

The check engine light illuminates when your car has issues with its engine or emissions. This light may illuminate owing to a variety of issues like a bad PCM, faulty oxygen sensor, bad crankshaft position sensor, and engine overheating.

Whenever you notice the illuminated check engine light on your dashboard, but you don’t notice any issues while driving. You do not have to worry at that time, but you can’t simply ignore it. Visit a good service center and ask the mechanic to inspect the problem.

2) Battery Symbol

The battery symbol on your car’s dashboard is easy to understand as it indicates problems related to your car battery. Many vehicle owners associate this light with the uncomfortable sound of a vehicle attempting to start with a dead battery.

Always remember, if your car’s dashboard is constantly showing the battery sign and your car is fine, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore this warning. This illuminated light may be due to some major issues with your battery, alternator, wiring, or any other electrical component.

3) Anti-lock Braking System

The Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) light has a symbol of the letters “ABS” and a yellow circle around it. It glows when the issue is with the anti-lock braking system of your car. It also illuminates to show that the ABS system of your car is active or operational.

Generally, if this warning symbol flashes as you apply brakes, everything is working well. But if this light is always “on,” it shows a malfunction in the anti-lock braking system of your car.

4) Icy Road Warning Light

An icy road warning light is symbolized as a snowflake with the road lane markers on your car’s dashboard. It warns the driver that the temperature outside is very cold and there is a possibility of an icy road ahead. So, the driver must take preventive measures and slow down the vehicle.

5) Warning Light for Oil Level

The oil level warning is yellow and represented as an oil bottle with a falling drop. This light indicates that the engine oil level is low and it is running out. Thus, check the oil level as soon as possible and refill it. Sometimes, that light may illuminate due to engine oil leakage.

6) Engine Oil Pressure Warning Light

The engine oil pressure light is like an oil level warning light but is “Red” in color. It’s an oil bottle with a falling drop and warns the driver that the oil circulation in the engine is not proper. It is a serious warning and may cause permanent damage to the engine due to insufficient oil pressure.

The causes of low oil pressure in the engine are low oil levels, damaged internal parts, and a faulty oil pump.

7) Coolant Temperature Warning Light

The coolant temperature warning light looks like a thermometer dipped in the ocean. This warning indicator alerts you when your car’s coolant temperature goes higher than normal.

This warning may start illuminating due to several reasons, like a leaky coolant hose, a damaged radiator, the low coolant level in your car’s radiator, or a damaged water pump. All of these issues could lead to a severe engine fault in the future. For example, driving with a coolant temperature warning light and a check engine light is critical and may result in the destruction of your vehicle’s engine.

8) Tire Pressure Warning Light

The Tire Pressure Warning Light has a yellow symbol with an exclamation point on the front of the tire. This warning light shows that one or more of your tires has low air pressure. A malfunctioning or miscalibrated tire pressure sensor might also be to blame.

9) Traction Control/ESP Light

The traction control system works in conjunction with the anti-lock braking system. It applies breaks automatically to keep the tires safe from slipping on icy or wet roads, pavements, gravel, and sand.

The ESP light is yellow in color and looks like a car with two wavy lines. Sometimes, it comes as the letter “ESP” in the center of a circle with brackets. The continuous glow of the ESP light shows a problem with your car’s computer.

10) Service Engine Soon

This warning symbol warns the driver that the car’s engine or gearbox may need to be repaired or replaced. It also indicates that your engine needs a good or more service than the normal engine service.

11) Low Washer Fluid Light

The low washer fluid light illuminates on your dashboard because of the insufficient windshield washer liquid. To eliminate this signal, check your windshield washer fluid and add more fluid to the tank if necessary.

12) Automatic Shift Lock Symbol

When the system is turned on, the shift lock light illuminates. It resembles a foot within a circle. In modern automatic transmissions, the shift interlock stops the car from shifting out of park unless the driver hits the brake pedal. It can also stop the engine from running in some automobiles. This minimizes the probability of the car falling backward if the gear selector is unintentionally pressed.

13) Reduced Engine Power

The “Engine Power Reduced” symbol shows that your vehicle’s performance has been deliberately restrained. On the detection of any failure or fault in the system, the powertrain control module (PCM) activates the Reduced Power Mode.

14) Lambda Warning Light

The Lambda warning light looks like a lambda in a green triangle. The presence of this warning indicator implies that the exhaust gas oxygen sensor is unclean or inactive. It is not recommended to drive your car for a long period with a lambda warning light. That is because this sensor controls the oxygen-to-fuel ratio in the engine.

15) Airbag Warning Light

Airbag Warning Light looks like a man with a seatbelt and a circle in front of him, which is red in color. It is common for this light to illuminate when you first start your car. If it remains lit while driving, it might indicate a problem with the airbags of your car. This will not stop the car’s basic functionality, but it may be hazardous in the case of an accident.

16) Glow Plug Light

The Glow Plug Light looks like an elongated yellow spring or a doodle with loops, and you can usually find it on diesel engine vehicles. Diesel engines have glow plugs which help in heating the combustion chamber and igniting the engine when it gets cold. It instantly warms the combustion chamber and stops immediately after detecting a sufficient temperature.

It appears on your car’s dashboard to tell you that the glow plugs are heating. When the engine is ready to start, this light automatically turns off. If the glow plug light keeps glowing or blinking, it warns you about the issue, and you may face difficulty starting your vehicle.

17) Fuel Filter Level Warning

A fluid level sensor is located inside the fuel filter, which monitors the quantity of water collected. Typically, it’s yellow in color and looks like a fuel filter with a falling drop under it.

The fuel filter warning light illuminates when the level reaches its maximum capacity, alerting you to empty the filter.

18) Power Steering Level Symbol

The Power Steering Level Symbol warns about the low level of power steering fluid or a faulty level sensor. Usually, it is yellow in color and consists of a steering wheel with an exclamation sign. One of its major causes is leakage in the system, which results in low fluid levels of the system.

19) Electronic Throttle Control Light

Yellow light with an energy symbol represents the Electronic Throttle Control Light. The electronic throttle control light activates when there is a problem with the throttle system. The throttle system consists of the throttle body, the accelerator pedal, and the wiring that connects them. The electronic throttle control system controls the position of the throttle.

20) Particulate Filter Warning (Diesel)

Particulate Filter Warning (Diesel) is like an exhaust with some particles on it and warns you about the issue in diesel particulate filter. The particulate filter reduces the emission and helps in minimizing the dirt that is pushed out by the car’s exhaust system. This dirt is injurious to health and causes many serious issues in the respiratory system.

21) Low Fuel Level

The low fuel level warning symbol consists of a fuel pump with “Low Fuel” written on its bottom. A low fuel level sign indicates that the fuel tank level is very low or fuel level measurement equipment is faulty.

22) Catalytic Converter Warning

The catalytic converter warning light looks like a hot tube. It warns the driver about the overheating of the catalytic converter. It can also illuminate due to a faulty catalytic converter. The unique honeycomb interior of the catalytic converter allows the maximum amount of air contact.

23) The Master Warning Light

The master warning light is yellow and looks like a car with an exclamation sign. It warns the driver about the severe problem in the advanced computer system. It also shows a detailed system message. For example, it can glow to tell the driver to test the car’s tire pressure monitoring system or warn about its maintenance status. In certain vehicles, it will remain illuminated until the root issue is solved.

24) Blinking Engine Light

A blinking or flashing engine light signifies that the engine is currently facing a problem. A misfiring engine apparently results in a flashing or blinking engine light.

25) Transmission Temperature Warning

The transmission temperature light resembles a thermometer placed within a gear. If this light remains illuminated, it indicates that the transmission is working at a higher temperature than usual. It indirectly says the transmission fluid in your car is lower than normal. Always carefully notice the lights on your dashboard to avoid any critical incidents while driving.

26) Powertrain Fault Warning Light

A powertrain fault warning light is like an exclamation sign in the center of the gear. It warns about the faulty powertrain module. It implies that your vehicle’s system has identified a problem with the powertrain or four-wheel-drive system when it glows.

27) Overdrive Off Indicator

The overdrive-off indicator is displayed on your car’s display as an “O/D OFF,” and it deactivates the vehicle’s overdrive feature. As a result, your transmission cannot change to the highest gear to aid acceleration during an uplift or deceleration during a decline.

28) Parking Brake Light

The parking brake light is a “P” in a circle with round brackets. It shows that the parking brake is applied. But if you notice the light illuminates when the brakes are not applied, then there may be an issue with the brakes, and you need to check it.

29) Differential Temperature Warning

If this light illuminates during the operation of the engine, it indicates that the oil in the differential is excessively hot. As a precaution, you have to slow down your car and stop for a while. Wait until the oil in the differential cools down, and the light disappears.

30) DTC Warning Light

The DTC warning light glows when there is a problem with the BMW traction control system. It is symbolized as “DTC.”

31) ESP BAS Warning Light

The ESP BAS warning light warns you about the problem in the brake assist program or the electronic stability program of your car. The ESP BAS warning light can be due to a bad brake switch, a faulty steering angle sensor, or a failed braking system. It is represented by “ESP BAS” on your car’s dashboard.

32) Automatic Gearbox Warning

The automatic transmission alert indicates that there can be a problem with the transmission, fluid temperature, level, or pressure.

33) Brake Pad Warning

The brake pad warning light is a circle with a few curved dashes on both sides. It indicates the issue in the brake pads. This warning light glows if your car’s brake pads are worn out or have a fault.

34) Brake Warning Light

The brake warning light on your car’s dashboard looks like an exclamation sign inside a circle and a bracket around these circles. It shows that there is a problem with the braking system. This should be examined right away since you might lose your brakes if you don’t pay attention to them.

35) Service Vehicle Soon

A service vehicle warning sign implies that the ABS, traction control, or electronic suspension system is malfunctioning. It looks like a wrench in the middle of the car.

36) 4-Wheel Drive Light

The 4-wheel drive light indicates when you activate 4WD mode by selecting 4H. Continuously flashing for more than 30 seconds indicates an issue with the drivetrain system or inappropriate activation of the 4WD.

37) Hazard Warning Lights

A symbol like a red triangle in a red triangle is known as a hazard warning light. The purpose of this light is to warn other drivers about the unstable or problematic condition of their cars. Additionally, this warning is also named hazard flashes or hazard lights.

38) Door Ajar Symbol

The door ajar light looks like a car with doors open. Just like the symbol, it tells the driver that the doors of the car are open. So, you have to shut them properly.

39) Hood Open Warning Light

This light tells you whether the hood of your car is open or not closed properly. If you notice this sign on your car dashboard, lift the hood, and close it properly.

40) Lane Departure Warning

This symbol corresponds to the name, and it can be seen as a symbol of a car slightly drifting to one side of the road. It warns you that your car is moving away from the specific lane. The main goal of this light is to keep you straight on track.

41) Distance Warning

The distance warning light looks like a car in a triangle. When this light is illuminated, it warns the driver that a huge object is approaching swiftly. This object can be any large object like a huge stone, a car, an animal, or a truck.

42) Headlight Range Control

Headlight Range control light displays on the car dashboard when your car has an issue within its control system and needs service to fix the issue. Its symbol is like a headlight directed at small arrows.

43) Position Light Indicator

When the position lights open after the car’s headlights are turned off, the position light indicator on the dashboard will start glowing.

44) Defrost indicator light

The defroster is activated whenever the light is switched on. The front indicator is represented by a curving window, while a rectangular window represents the back. You may not be able to receive air out of the usual vents while defogging the windshield.

45) Steering Lock Warning Light

The Steering Lock warning light looks like a steering wheel with a key or a lock, and it glows in red color. When the ignition of the car is in the off state, and the lock is activated, at this time, you will notice a steering lock warning light on your car’s dashboard. Apart from this, if this light glows, then take your car to a good service center.

46) Brake Fluid Level Warning

Like a wave in a circle and round brackets, a red light is a brake fluid-level warning light. A brake fluid level alert signals that the brake fluid level is too low or that the measurement equipment is malfunctioning.

47) Immobilizer Indicator

The immobilizer warning light illuminates when the car’s anti-theft system cannot recognize your car key. It’s red in color and resembles a car and a lock.

48) Ignition Switch Warning Light

The ignition switch warning light looks like a lock and a key. This indicates a problem with the ignition system or the automobile key. It might be the result of a bug or a damaged key.

49) Suspension Warning

On your car’s dashboard, a symbol like a car with up and down arrows is of suspension warning. Whenever the control system detects the issue or fault in the suspension system of your car, it immediately triggers the suspension warning light.

50) Rear Spoiler Warning light

Whenever your car detects a problem in the spoiler system, it triggers the rear spoiler warning light. The most common cause of this warning is a fault in the fuse or the connector. On a car dashboard, this is shown as a car spoiler with two anti-direction arrows.

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