54 Car Dashboard Symbols, Warning Lights & Indicators

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Modern vehicles are complex machines. The latest car models have dozens of computer modules working behind the scenes, a vast network of sensors, and hundreds of electrical wires linking all the components. When any part of your car goes bad, a warning light starts illuminating on the car dashboard. In this article, you will learn the meaning of the most common car dashboard symbols and warning lights.

car dashboard symbols

Car dashboard symbols and warning lights come in a variety of colors. The most serious warning symbols are red, as they typically denote a major issue or component failure.

Yellow or amber lights often indicate a lower-grade hazard or warning, such as the activation of the traction control system when driving on slippery roads.

Green, blue and white lights simply mean that a feature is engaged, such as the headlights or cruise control.

Car Dashboard Symbols and Warning Lights

Your dashboard may be different, and the symbols may have altered designs or indicate slightly different things, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual. Some of these lights could portend a serious malfunction. Don’t ignore them.

But if you don’t understand what a warning light means—or choose to ignore it—a small problem could turn into a bigger, more expensive, and potentially dangerous issue. And even the savviest car owner can have trouble deciphering the message a warning light is trying to convey.

Following are the most common car dashboard symbols and warning lights:

1) Check Engine Light

The check engine light is one of the most famous car dashboard warning lights. It is the one car owners hate most. Usually, this warning is in the shape of a silhouetted engine, though sometimes it’s even harder to miss the all-caps “CHECK ENGINE” message.

The check engine light indicates an issue with the engine or the emissions. This light may start illuminating due to multiple causes, including engine overheating, bad oxygen sensor, bad PCM or bad crankshaft position sensor.

If the check engine light illuminates while you’re driving and everything seems fine with the car, don’t panic, but don’t ignore it. Get the vehicle to a mechanic to run a diagnostic test and source the problem.

2) Battery

The battery warning is easy to decipher because it looks exactly like the thing that needs attention. For many car owners, this light conjures up the heart-sinking “whir whir whir” sound of a vehicle trying to start with a flat battery.

Don’t be fooled if the battery light illuminates, but the car starts up and drives normally. There could be a long-term issue with the battery itself or potential problems with the vehicle’s wiring, alternator, or other electrical components.

3) Anti-lock Braking System

The ABS light features a yellow or red circle with the letters “ABS” in the center. It illuminates when a problem is detected with the anti-lock braking system or the system is active. Generally, if it’s flashing while you’re braking, the system is functioning as intended. If it’s on constantly, there’s a problem with your anti-lock braking system.

4) Icy Road Warning Light

An icy road warning light indicates the outside temperature is cold and that there is a risk of an icy road. Slow down!

 

5) Oil Level Warning Light

A yellow oil level warning light indicates a low engine oil level. The oil level should be checked as soon as possible. Most likely due to an oil leak.

6) Engine Oil Pressure Light

The engine oil pressure light is typically depicted as a red oil can, and it signifies that oil is not circulating properly through the engine. This is a major issue because insufficient oil pressure can cause an engine to wear prematurely or even seize up. Common reasons for low oil pressure include low oil levels, a worn oil pump, and other worn internal components.

7) Coolant Temperature Warning Light

Looking like a thermometer taking a dip in the ocean, the coolant temperature warning lets you know your car is running too hot. This could be caused by a broken water pump, low coolant levels in the radiator, a leaking or burst coolant hose, or even damage to the radiator itself.

These are serious issues and could lead to much bigger engine problems if ignored. Like a blinking check engine light, driving an overheated car is unsafe and risks permanently ruining your four-wheeled mode of transportation.

8) Tire Pressure Warning Light

A tire pressure warning light indicates low air pressure in one or more tires. It can also be caused by a faulty or uncalibrated tire pressure sensor

9) Traction Control/ESP Light

The traction control system works hand in hand with the anti-lock braking system. It selectively applies the brakes to limit the wheels from slipping during acceleration, and it often engages when driving on icy and snowy roads, wet pavement, sand, and gravel.

The yellow traction control light – a car with two squiggly lines underneath – illuminates momentarily when the system is intervening. If the light stays on, however, that means there is a problem with the system, and it may not operate properly.

10) Service Engine Soon

The Service Engine Soon light indicates there may be a repair or replacement of your engine or transmission. It means there is more than a routine repair or service requirement; instead, a system failure to the fuel, transmission, ignition, or emissions.

11) Low Washer Fluid Light

This car dashboard warning light indicates that your windshield washer fluid is low. To make this indicator disappear, simply check your windshield washer fluid, and refill the tank if necessary.

12) Automatic Shift Lock Symbol

Modern automatic transmissions are equipped with a shift interlock, which prevents the vehicle from shifting out of park until the driver has pressed the brake pedal. In some vehicles, it can also prevent the engine from starting. This reduces the risk of the vehicle rolling away if the gear selector is pushed accidentally.

The shift lock light features a green foot within a circle, and it turns on to show when the system is active.

13) Reduced Engine Power

In most cases, the Engine Power Reduced warning indicates that your car’s performance has been intentionally limited. Your car’s primary computer, often known as the powertrain control module (PCM), triggers Reduced Power Mode when it detects a system failure.

14) Lambda Warning Light

This warning symbol indicates that the exhaust gas oxygen sensor is dirty or inoperative. The vehicle should not be driven for any length of time in this condition as this sensor is key to controlling the oxygen to fuel ratio in your engine.

15)Airbag Warning Light

It’s perfectly normal for this light to turn on when your vehicle is first started. Should it stay illuminated while driving, there could be a problem with one of the vehicle’s airbags. This won’t cause you to get stuck on the side of the road, but it could be dangerous in the event of an accident.

16) Low Coolant Indicator

A low coolant warning light indicates there is a low coolant level in the coolant reservoir or an issue with the coolant level sensor. Check for leaks around the radiator, radiator cap, coolant hoses, or water pump.

17) Glow Plug Light

The dashboard of the diesel engine vehicles has a glow plug warning light. Diesel engines are equipped with glow plugs designed to heat up the combustion chamber and assist with starting the engine when it’s cold. It takes a few seconds for glow plugs to sufficiently warm up the engine air temperature, and they shut off once it is hot enough.

The amber glow plug light – a squiggle with two loops – illuminates to show that the glow plugs are warming up. The light turns off once the engine is ready to start. If the glow plug light blinks or remains on, it indicates that there may be a problem with this system, and the vehicle may be difficult to start.

18) Fuel Filter Level Warning

Inside the fuel filter is a fluid level sensor that keeps track of the amount of water that has been collected. Once the level starts reaching maximum capacity, the fuel filter warning light will illuminate to let you know to empty the filter.

19) Power Steering Level Symbol

A power steering level warning light indicates a low power steering fluid level or an issue with the level sensor.

20) Power Steering Warning Light

The light warns you that the power steering system has failed and prompts you to investigate for a cause. The cause may vary according to the type of power steering system in your car. In hydraulic power steering systems, a leak in the system causing a low fluid level is the most common cause of this problem.

21) Electronic Throttle Control Light

The electronic throttle control light illuminates when there is an issue with the throttle system. The throttle system includes the throttle body, accelerator pedal, and the wirings between them. The electronic throttle control system control and monitors the position of the throttle.

22) Particulate Filter Warning (Diesel)

The DPF light tells you there’s a problem with your car’s diesel particulate filter. This is something that has been fitted to diesel cars since 2009 to reduce the amount of soot released through the car’s exhaust system, lowering emissions. This soot is harmful and can cause respiratory problems.

23) Low Fuel Level

A low fuel level symbol means that the fuel tank level is low or there is an issue with the fuel level measuring system. An arrow could also indicate which side your gas cap is on.

24) Catalytic Converter Warning

This car dashboard warning symbol is installed to warn the driver that the catalytic converter is either overheating or not operating as intended. The inside of the catalytic converter consists of a honeycomb design that increases the surface area in contact with the air.

25) Master Warning Light

The Master Warning light is used to notify you of a potential problem with one or more of your vehicle’s advanced systems. It will be accompanied by a message in your car’s vehicle information display with a more detailed system message.

For example, it may illuminate to tell you to check your tire pressure monitoring system or the vehicle’s maintenance status. In some cars, it will remain illuminated until the underlying issue is corrected.

26) Blinking Engine Light

A blinking or flashing engine light indicates there is an issue with your engine ongoing right now. A misfiring engine normally triggers a flashing light.

27) Transmission Temperature Warning

The transmission temperature light looks like a thermometer inside of a gear. Should this light stay lit, it means that the transmission is operating at a higher temperature than normal temperature. It likely means that your vehicle is low on transmission fluid. It is important to pay attention to your dashboard as you drive.

28) Powertrain Fault Warning Light

The powertrain fault warning light on Ford vehicles is the powertrain malfunction indicator light. When it illuminates, it means that the computer has detected an issue with your vehicle’s powertrain or four-wheel-drive system.

29) Overdrive Off indicator

This warning light means that your vehicle has disabled the overdrive functionality, and hence your transmission cannot shift to the highest gear to facilitate acceleration on an upgrade or deceleration on a downgrade.

30) Parking Brake Light

Typically, your brake warning light being on means your parking brake is engaged, but if you’re still seeing the red (or orange) warning on your dash while the parking brake is disengaged, you’re going to need to get your brakes inspected as soon as possible.

31) Differential Temperature Warning

If this light is on while the engine is running, it indicates that the oil in the differential is too hot. If you are driving, reduce your speed and stop at the nearest safe place. Allow the differential to cool down and the light to go out.

32) DTC Warning Light

A DTC warning light means that there is an issue with the BMW traction control system.

33) ESP BAS Warning Light

An ESP BAS warning light indicates a problem with the electronic stability program or brake assist program with your vehicle. Some of the top causes for this light include defective wheel speed sensors, issues with the steering angle sensor, a bad brake switch or other braking system failures.

34) Automatic Gearbox Warning

The automatic transmission warning light means there’s an issue with the transmission, possibly the fluid temperature, fluid level, or pressure.

35) Brake Pad Warning

A Brake pad warning light means that the front or rear brake pads are worn and need to be replaced.

36) Brake Warning Light

A brake warning light indicates an issue with the brake system. This should be checked immediately because you may lose your brakes otherwise.

37) Service Vehicle Soon

A service vehicle soon symbol indicates there is an issue with the ABS, traction control, or electric suspension system.

38) 4 Wheel Drive Light

The purpose of the 4-wheel drive light is to indicate when you have engaged 4WD mode by selecting 4H. When the light flashes continuously for more than 30 seconds, it signifies there is a problem somewhere on your drivetrain system and that 4WD has not engaged properly.

39) Hazard Warning Lights

Hazard warning lights are a pair of intermittent flashing indicator lights that flash in unison to warn other drivers that the vehicle is a temporary obstruction. They are also called hazard flashers and hazard lights.

40) Door Ajar Symbol

The door ajar sensor is relatively straightforward in its purpose: it recognizes when a door on your vehicle is open and alerts your car’s engine control unit. It then lights up an icon on your car’s dash, letting you know a door is open.

41) Hood Open Warning Light

This indicator light only has one purpose: to verify the hood is closed completely. If the light is illuminated, pull over safely and check the hood to make sure it is closed all the way. Once the hood has been closed properly, the light should turn off.

42) Lane Departure Warning

The lane departure light means the vehicle is detected to be moving out of its current lane without signaling. It may assist in keeping you in your lane.

43) SRS Light

The SRS warning light indicates a malfunction in the airbag system, front passenger occupant classification system or the seatbelt pre-tensioner system.

44) Distance Warning

When this light is illuminated, it indicates that the computer has detected an object in the road ahead of you that is approaching quickly. This may not always be a car and could be a large object on the road.

45) Bonnet Open

A bonnet open symbol means that the bonnet is not closed properly or an issue with the bonnet lock switch

46) Headlight Range Control

The headlight range control warning light alerts you when the control system is defective and needs service or repair.

47) Position Light Indicator

A position light symbol will turn on when the headlights are switched off, and the position lights are on.

48) Defrost indicator light

Whenever the light is illuminated, the defroster is turned on. The symbol for the front is a curved window, while the rear is rectangular. While you are defogging the windshield, you may not be able to get the air out of the normal vents.

49) Steering Lock Warning Light

The steering lock indicator light only illuminates when the ignition is in the off position, and the lock is engaged. If you see it come on at any other time, you should have the car checked out by a qualified technician.

50) Brake Fluid Level Warning

A brake fluid level warning indicates that the brake fluid level is too low or there is an issue with the measurement system.

51) Immobilizer Indicator

The immobilizer warning light turns on if your anti-theft system does not recognize the car key being used, if it’s the wrong key or low on battery.

52) Ignition Switch Warning Light

The ignition switch warning light could mean there’s an issue with the ignition system or the car key. It could be due to a glitch or worn-out key.

53) Suspension Warning

An air suspension warning symbol means that there is an issue with the air suspension system.

54) Rear Spoiler Warning light

The rear spoiler warning light lets you know when an issue has been detected with the spoiler system, usually due to a connector or fuse issue.

FAQ Section

What is Audi dynamic turn signals?

Dynamic turn signals, which illuminate sequentially to indicate the direction the vehicle is turning, let the driver indicate the desired turn direction to other drivers with greater confidence.

Why are sequential turn signals illegal?

According to federal regulations, this sort of turn signal isn’t allowed for one simple reason: The regulation governs precisely how much turn signal must illuminate as the signal is turned on, and a little directional line isn’t enough lit surface area in the first “flash” of the turn signal.

What are sweeping indicators?

Sweeping Pointer Indicators are outstanding at first sight, focusing on the lifts and determining the superior interior design. Made from most previous materials and high-quality processor brings the feature design to complete perfection.

How do sequential tail lights work?

Sequential tail lights function by illuminating a single bar at a time on your Mustang’s distinctive and iconic tri-bar tails until all three are light up, at which point the pattern goes blank and then repeats from the beginning.

Can you have red rear turn signals?

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 allows rear turn signals to be either red or amber in color.

What color can my turn signals be?

Most cars in the US have red turn signals, while you often see amber ones in other countries. The US allows amber turn signals but doesn’t require them.

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