Virginia Auto Service

8 Common Dashboard Lights and Their Meanings

When the icons light up on your dashboard, you may not always know what they mean. Many of the icons are warning lights that indicate that a fault has occurred inside the vehicle’s system. However, they don’t tell you exactly what has malfunctioned. You need to bring your vehicle in to us so we can use our code reader or scan tool and determine where the problem lies.

Virginia Auto Service AZ Blog: 8 Common Dashboard Lights and Their Meanings

The following is a list of the eight most common lights that are used by automotive manufacturers. You should keep in mind that not all warning lights are universal; some are specific to the manufacturer. If you are not certain what the warning light is indicating, the information can typically be found in your owner’s manual.

Low Tire Pressure

Tire PressureMost cars manufactured after the early 2000’s will have the tire pressure monitoring system. (TPMS) This light indicates that the tire pressure monitoring system has found one or more tires that have dropped 4 or more psi below the rest of them. Or, there could be a sensor malfunction.  If this light comes on, check the tire pressure. Some cars will allow a manual reset of the TPMS warning light, whereas others will require it to be handled professionally. Refer to your owner’s manual.

Engine Coolant Temperature

Engine Overheating When this light comes on, it indicates that the coolant temperature has exceeded normal limits. If it comes on while you are driving, your engine is either overheating or is about to overheat. Pull over and shut off your engine to prevent more damage. There are a few things that could result in the engine coolant temperature icon appearing on your dash including; being low on coolant, a stuck thermostat, coolant leaks, and a seized water pump.

Engine Oil Pressure

Oil And Engine Malfunction Warning Light Control In Car DashboarThis light is often mistaken as a sign that you are low on oil. While that may be true, the light is actually relative to engine oil pressure, not level. When this light comes on, it is telling you that your engine’s oil pressure is either too high or too low. If the light comes on while you are driving, pull over and shut off your engine to prevent serious damage. Have your vehicle towed to us as soon as possible.

Charging System

Discharged Battery Warning Light In Car Dashboard. 3D Rendered IThis is another light with mistaken identity. Most people believe that if this light is on then they need a new battery. And, while that could be true, it’s not always the case. Other reasons that this light will come on include; a faulty alternator, a blown fuse, or bad wiring. No matter the case, it is not recommended to keep driving the vehicle once this light comes on.

Brake System

Brake System Warning Light In Car Dashboard. 3D Rendered IllustrIf this light is on, it indicates one of three things: the parking brake is on, there is a problem with the braking system/brake fluid is low, or there is an ABS problem. If you see this light, make sure your parking brake is fully released. If that doesn’t solve your problem, have your brakes inspected as soon as possible. If you notice that your pedal is “soft” or goes all the way to the floor, Do Not Drive the car, have it towed in.

Low Fuel

low-fuelWhen this light comes on, you need to seek out a gas station as soon as you can. As a rule, you shouldn’t let your vehicle drop below ¼ of a tank.  Some vehicles running on less than ¼ of a tank of gas can shorten the life of the fuel pump.

Washer Fluid

washer-fluid-levelIf you see this light, then you are low on washer fluid. When completely empty, most cars will take a full gallon of washer fluid. Simply re-fill and the problem is solved. If it has been over six months, take this time to check your wiper blades and replace them if needed.

Check Engine

Engine Malfunction Warning Light Control In Car Dashboard. 3D ReThis light indicates that the engine computer has set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). A wide range of things can set this light off from a loose fuel cap to catalytic converter problems, and so on. It usually requires diagnosis from a professional scan tool. Driving with a flashing check engine light is not recommended.


If an indicator light on your dash is on, call Virginia Auto Service, (602) 266-0200, today to get the best care and information to help keep your vehicle performing at its best.