What Do the Warning Indicator Lights Mean on a Jeep Liberty?by Jen Anderson
Staring at a Christmas tree of blinking, brightly colored problems east and west of your speedometer, it's almost easy to miss the days when cars just broke down without warning. But, while your Jeep Liberty may be fairly adept off-road, Chrysler's engineering department isn't about to let you stick your head in the sand of calming self-delusion. Those little hypochondriac panic lights can be very helpful from time to time, provided you know what they're saying; but if not, you can always just tell yourself they're only thoughtful seasonal decorations.
Low Fuel Light
This indicator light resembles a gas station pump. It lights up when your gas tank is only one-eighth full. Generally speaking, depending on how and where you drive, you may have as little as 10 or as many as 30 miles left before you sputter to a stop.
Tire Pressure Monitoring Telltale Light
The tire pressure monitoring telltale light looks like an exclamation point inside a fishbowl. When this light comes on and remains steady, one or more of your tires are below 25 psi or above 45 psi. Slightly underinflated tires give you more grip off-road, but driving on underinflated tires hurts your fuel economy and tire lifespan. Slightly overinflated tires are good for fuel economy, but bad for performance and tire longevity, and more prone to blowing out. A TPMS light that flashes when you start the vehicle and remains lit indicates that the TPMS system is malfunctioning -- most likely due to a bad pressure sensor.
Malfunction Indicator Light
The malfunction indicator light -- or "MIL" -- resembles a car engine. It lights up when the key is in the "On/Run" position, before the engine starts. A MIL that remains lit is indicative of an engine or emissions system problem. The only way to know for certain why it's on is to have the diagnostic codes checked. You can take your Jeep to a mechanic, but most chain auto parts stores have code scanners as a courtesy for use by customers. Once you have the trouble code numbers, the store employees can explain what they mean. Before anything else, though, check your gas cap. Loose gas caps will trigger a "P0440 Evaporative Emissions" code. As you can imagine, these are very common.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Activation/Malfunction Indicator Light
The Electronic Stability Control -- ESC -- Activation/Malfunction Indicator Light looks like a car trailing two curved lines, as if the car has swerved. This indicator lights up when you turn the key to the "On/Run" position and then dims. It will also flash when the system is currently helping your Jeep to maintain traction off-road or on slick pavement, just to let you know it's being super helpful. If the light remains on, it indicates a malfunction in the system. If the light remains lit after you have driven it several times more than 30 mph, have your Jeep Liberty serviced by a certified dealer as soon as possible. If you see "ESC off," it means you've turned the stability control system off.
Charging System Light
The charging system light looks like the side view of a car battery, with a plus sign and a minus sign. This indicator lights up when you turn the key to the "On/Run" position and then dims after a minute. If the light remains lit or comes on while you are driving, try turning off an non-essential electrical devices. A weak charging system might not be able to keep up with the demands of high-draw devices like extra running lights, sound systems or winches. If the light remains lit, have the codes checked to see if the diagnostic computer has anything useful to say. If you don't get any other codes, take your Jeep to a qualified shop for diagnosis.
Oil Pressure Warning Light
The oil pressure warning light looks like an oil can. It lights up when you turn on your Jeep Liberty's engine and then turns off. If the oil pressure warning light turns on while you are driving, the oil pressure sending unit is telling the computer you have low oil pressure. Nine times out of 10, this will indicate your oil level is dangerously low. Check the oil and add as necessary. If your oil level is OK, have the Jeep towed home or to a shop. Don't even start the engine, much less drive, with the low oil pressure light on.
Anti-Lock Brake -- ABS -- Light
The "((ABS))" light is for the anti-lock braking system. This indicator lights up when you turn the key to the "On/Run" position and then turns off. If this light remains on, or turns on while you are driving, it indicates a problem with your anti-lock brake system. The ABS computer is a completely separate unit from the Jeep's primary computer, so don't expect any diagnostic codes if you scan it. Check your brake fluid level before anything else. The Jeep's hydraulic brakes will continue to work, so it's technically driveable; but since you don't know exactly how the system is malfunctioning, your brakes may react in unpredictable ways. And unpredictability is the one thing you don't want in a braking system. Best to avoid the risk and have your ABS system checked out right away.
The Tow/Haul indicator is the words "TOW/HAUL" and indicates you have pressed the Tow/Haul button on the gearshift. Pressing this button tells your engine and transmission computers that you're towing something; they'll respond by engaging new programs to increase shift rpm and clutch fluid pressure to prevent transmission overheating.
The "4WD LOW" indicator turns on when you have the four-wheel drive Low mode engaged. It is the number "4" over the letters "LOW." The "4WD" Indicator lights up when you have engaged your Jeep Liberty's four-wheel drive. Some Libertys also use "full-time" or "part-time" systems. It's worth noting that these are technically backward in the Liberty. "Part-time" usually refers to a system that automatically shuts itself off for city driving, and "full-time" usually means the system is fully locked for off-roading. But in early focus groups, Jeep found its less-experienced Liberty customers assuming that "part-time" meant you used it "part of the time," and "full-time" was safe to use all the time. So, they switched the labels to make the Liberty more noob-friendly.
Service 4WD Light
The service four-wheel drive indicator light is the characters "SERV 4WD". It lights up when you turn the key to the ON/RUN position and turns off. If it remains lit or turns on while you are driving, have your four-wheel drive system serviced.
Hill Descent Control
The Hill Descent Control Indicator looks like an SUV driving downhill with a dial above it. Newer Libertys have this feature, which uses the engine, transmission and brakes to control your speed and stability while going down steep hills. Think of this as a kind of "backward cruise control" for preventing a runaway situation while going downhill. If you try to engage hill descent control when the four-wheel drive Low mode is not engaged or you are driving faster than 30 mph, this indicator will flash to let you know you can't engage hill descent control under those conditions.
The engine temperature warning light looks like a thermometer in liquid. When the engine is on the verge of overheating, this indicator lights up, and a chime sounds once. Continue to drive the Liberty and overheat it further, and the light will go into full freak-out mode, flashing and chiming continuously. The transmission fluid temperature light is right next to the engine temperature light; it's a thermometer inside of a circle. You'll likely never see this gauge illuminate unless you're towing something heavy uphill, or if you've just spent the last 15 miles ascending Mount Eagle in Tennessee. Don't take this warning lightly, because it's the last one you'll get before your transmission fries. Pull over, and either shut the vehicle down or let it idle in neutral until it cools.
Jen Anderson has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has appeared in the "New York Times," "Time Out Chicago" and "The Villager." She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Brooklyn College.