Modern cars are filled with lights, buzzers, graphics, and gauges. Some of those attention-grabbing warning lights are more important than others. When one of the following shows up on your dashboard, you need to pay attention right away, because it’s giving you vital information about your car, and potentially, your safety behind the wheel.
Overheating your engine is a one-way ticket to expensive repair bills. While most cars have a temperature gauge, every vehicle also features this temperature light – or a variation of it – that shows up when your coolant has heated up to the point where it’s no longer safe to keep driving. This is usually due to a loss of pressure in the cooling system or a coolant leak. Don’t wait for a cloud of steam from under your hood. When this light appears, you need to pull over as soon as is safely possible, shut down your engine, and call for a tow. If not, you risk causing significant damage to the engine.
The gas light flashes on when your fuel tank is low to the point where you’re dipping into reserve levels. There’s no industry standard for how much gas is left in the tank when you see this icon for the first time. Some vehicles give you as much as 50 kilometres of additional driving range, while for others it’s a more dire warning. Do you really want to find out how far you can drive with the gas light on the hard way?
The battery light tells you that there’s a problem with your car’s charging system. This could mean a lot of things: a belt could be slipping, which prevents your alternator from generating enough voltage to keep your car running; the battery itself might not charging properly; or there could be a drain in the system that’s pulling more voltage than the battery and alternator can put out. This light can often flicker, or turn itself on and off to indicate an intermittent problem. Once you’ve seen it light up in any way, it’s worth checking your battery and belts to start trouble-shooting your charging system.
Tire Pressure Light
Most modern cars come with a tire pressure monitoring system that keeps track of how much air is in each of your four tires. When this light comes on, it’s because the air in one or more of your tires has fallen out of an acceptable range of safe pressures. Usually, it’s because it’s too low. If your car doesn’t show you a read-out of individual pressures at each corner, then you’ll need to manually measure each tire’s air pressure level to find out which one is triggering the tire pressure signal. The tire will need to be refilled to an appropriate pressure level – or repaired or replaced, if necessary.
Check Engine Light
The check engine light is the Swiss Army knife of warning lights, in that it shows up when your vehicle’s computer generates an error code. The code itself can be related to almost anything in your automobile: a misfiring spark plug, a bad oxygen sensor, a malfunctioning tail light, to name a few The only way to know is to plug your car into a code reader, and then translate the code. Any garage can do this for you, or you can even purchase a hand-held code reader of your own to do it at home.
When one of these five lights illuminate on your dashboard, don’t wait around. Take action immediately, and stay safe.