What Do the Lights on the Dashboard Mean?

by Amber D. Walker

There are a variety of warning lights that may appear on a car’s dashboard, and the precise lights, their symbols, and their meaning may change from model to model. Check your owner’s manual for information about an unknown light.

Oil Pressure Warning

The oil pressure warning looks like an oil tin dripping oil. If it remains on while driving, this usually indicates a low oil level.

Battery Charge Warning

This light looks like a battery and indicates a problem with the battery charging system. It usually indicates a bad drive belt, a bad battery, or a failure of the alternator.

Brake System Warning

This light contains an exclamation mark and indicates that the hand brake is engaged. It also may indicate that you need to add more brake fluid or that there is flaw in the brake fluid sensor.

Engine Warning

This icon looks like an engine and indicates some problem with the engine management system. If it remains illuminated after starting the engine, the car should be taken to a mechanic to prevent eventual damage to the catalytic converter.

ABS Warning

This light contains the letters ABS and indicates that the Anti-lock Braking System is malfunctioning. The car may or may not be able to continue normal, non-ABS, braking. Check your owner’s manual.

About the Author

Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.