Car Warning Lights and Indicators – What Do They Mean?

vehicle dashboard

Perhaps you may have wondered about the several different symbols displayed on your dashboard. Well, each of these symbols represents a specific function of your car. Since most modern vehicles have a computer system that is linked together with a vast network of sensors and hundreds of electrical wires, this means a lot could go wrong with a car. When a problem does occur, the first indication is often a warning light on your dashboard.

Car warning lights come in different colors, depending on the severity of the issue. The most serious lights are red, and they typically indicate a major problem that needs immediate attention. A yellow light often indicates a minor issue, while blue or green lights simply indicate that a feature is engaged.

As a driver, you should be able to identify what these symbols mean. Read on as we walk you through the 14 most common car warning lights, so you’ll know what to do when you see one.  

14 Most Common Car Warning Lights and Indicators on Your Dashboard

1. Oil Pressure Light

This warning light usually indicates that oil pressure is low, meaning the oil is not circulating properly through the engine. Your engine can wear out prematurely without proper lubrication, which makes it a major issue and should be addressed immediately. Common reasons for low oil pressure include:

  • Low oil levels
  • A worn oil pump
  • Other damaged internal components

Check the engine oil levels regularly to help avoid this issue. Have your engine checked as soon as possible once the oil pressure light turns on.

2. Tire Pressure Light

Most modern vehicles are equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (or TPMS). It is responsible for activating the tire pressure light. This warning light signals that one of your vehicle’s tires has low pressure. Some advanced vehicles can even identify which exact tire has low pressure.

3. Engine Temperature Light

If this light is on, it means that your engine is getting too hot. Overheating is a serious problem that can cause critical damage to your engine. Your car may overheat for several reasons. What you should do is check your radiator for coolant level, leakage, or any damages. If you see this warning sign, turn off your engine immediately to avoid further damage. 

4. Traction Control Light

The traction control system (TCS) and the anti-lock braking system (ABS) work together to keep your car in contact with the road. TCS is activated when it senses a wheel is slipping during acceleration. It often engages when you’re driving on snowy or wet pavements. This warning light turns on momentarily as it applies the brakes until the wheel regains traction. If the light stays on, however, that means the system may not be operating properly. 

5. ABS Light

This warning sign pops up when a problem is detected with the anti-lock braking system (ABS). This is a safety feature that improves braking performance on slippery roads by keeping your wheels from locking up and skidding. A malfunctioning ABS can be dangerous and should be addressed as soon as possible. 

6. Traction Control Malfunction Light

This warning light indicates a broken or damaged traction control sensor. It could also mean a problem with ABS. You should have it checked by a professional to diagnose the problem.

7. Check Engine Light

This light can appear as red or amber and may be associated with several engine issues. It is normal to see this light as you turn on the ignition, but it should disappear as soon as the engine is running. If not, the system is sensing a problem, and ignoring it can cause severe damage to the engine. At this point, driving your vehicle should be prohibited.

8. Battery Alert Light

This light indicates that your vehicle’s charging system is malfunctioning. The battery is usually the issue, but it could also be caused by a faulty alternator. You’ll know your battery is the problem when your headlights start to dim and you have trouble starting your car.

To know more about bad batteries vs faulty alternators, click here.     

9. Low Fuel Symbol Light

When this symbol blinks, this is when you need to visit the closest gas station and refill gas. It is best not to wait until you see this sign pop into your dashboard. Always take time to refill your car’s gas in advance.

10. Automatic Shift Lock Light

This lock activates when you start the car or change gear without stepping the brake first. It will shift your car to neutral or park. To unlock such, step on the break and you may start the engine and shift gears.

11. Seat Belt Reminder Light

This flickers when you and your passenger forgot to secure yourselves with a seatbelt. In some cars, it will light together with a noise alert and will only stop until the seatbelt is already fastened. 

12. Airbag Indicator Light

When this light turns on, it only means something is wrong with one of the car’s airbags. It is best to let it be checked right away and visit your car’s nearest company. Take note that such an issue should be addressed since this airbag will be of help during unforeseen accidents. 

13. Fog Lamp Indicator Light

The fog indicator light should only be used when necessary, like reduced visibility when driving. Unless there’s a heavy fog and your range of vision is below 100 meters, turn it off or see to it that it’s off for everyone’s safety. 

14. Washer Fluid Indicator Light

The washer fluid light blinks in yellow when there is a low level of windshield washer fluid. When such appears, you better be doing a refill of your windshield reservoir right away. Symbols may look like a windshield with a wiper or a windshield icon alone depending on the car. 


The car warning lights and indicators are important things you should know. Dashboard lights can either be red, yellow, or green and all have different meanings. Red means there may be a problem and must be addressed immediately, yellow means something requires fixing, and green or sometimes blue is for telling you that something is on or running.

To have a better understanding of warning lights, find time to read your car’s manual and get to know each one. It’s always better to be prepared than sorry! But if you do happen to see any of these car warning lights on, feel free to call Neighborhood Roadside Assistance for timely car troubleshooting services.