Understanding Your Vehicle’s Warning Lights | They Give You Something to be Extra Thankful for this Season

The holiday season is upon us and for many people that means being on the go a lot more than normal. When it comes to your vehicle, this is one of the times in the year that you probably rely on it most. From running to and from the store to pick up the ingredients you need to create a feast, to attending gatherings filled with friends and family, your car, truck, or SUV is likely an essential part of your holiday excursions. Nothing can put a damper on your plans quite like having an unexpected breakdown. The good news is, modern vehicles are equipped with warning lights that signal that there is a problem on the horizon, usually before you are faced with a completely non-drivable vehicle.

In this article we are going to help you gain an understanding of your vehicle’s warning lights and what different signals may mean. By knowing when something is urgent or not, it can help you to ensure uninterrupted holiday plans and give you something to be extra thankful for this season.

Understanding Your Vehicle’s Warning Lights

Did you know that there are more warning lights on your dash than just the “Check Engine Light”? Most drivers have no idea that there are different warning signals that may light up, let alone what certain ones mean for their vehicle. These lights can sometimes be warning drivers of potential dangers and other times they can be an indication that there is something minor that needs checked. Like we said above, to ensure you don’t miss out on the holiday festivities, it can be valuable to understand your vehicle’s warning lights and which ones you can’t ignore or put off even for a little while.

Below we break down some of the most common warning lights that come with modern vehicles. Keep in mind, as with all things, every vehicle is different, so be sure to check your owner’s manual to get up to speed on your specific car, truck, or SUV.

  • Check Engine Light: We are going to start with the most familiar warning indicator and usually the worst on to see, the check engine light. The check engine light on a vehicle, also known as the malfunction indicator lamp, is a signal from the car’s engine computer that something is wrong with the vehicle. This light usually appears on the instrument panel of most automobiles and typically says something like “CHECK ENGINE” or displays a symbol of an engine. When there is an issue, the check engine light will pop up on your dash in typically a yellow, orange, or red color and be solid or blink. We have reviewed before how you should not ignore the check engine light, because this light is signaling that something is wrong with the engine. If the light is blinking, this usually indicates a more severe issue, so you should visit a local Phoenix automotive shop right away.  
  • Battery Light: The battery warning light is easy to decipher because it looks exactly like the thing that needs attention, a battery. When this vehicle warning light pops up, it means that there is an issue with the battery, alternator, or other electrical components within the vehicle. Your vehicle’s battery is a vital component to the overall performance and functionality of getting you to and from where you need to go, so if there is an issue with it, you will want to have it resolved as soon as possible to avoid your car just not starting one day, which tends to happen at the most inopportune times.
  • Temperature or Coolant Warning Light: Another important vehicle warning light to watch for, is the temperature or coolant warning light. This indicator looks like a thermometer dipping in water. This warning light indicates that your engine is reaching a temperature that’s too high and close to overheating. Various issues can cause this light to come on: low coolant, radiator problems, mechanical issues, lack of oil, or more. Regardless what is causing this warning to light up, it means your engine is about to overheat. You should never drive with a vehicle that is going to overheat, as it can cause many more and more costly issues for your car, truck, or SUV. Check out our tips for what to do if your vehicle overheats.
  • Low Oil Pressure Warning: If you see a light on your dashboard that looks like an oil can with a drop of oil coming from it, your vehicle is trying to tell you that it needs more oil. Your car needs oil to function, so you should not drive while this light is illuminated. If you see this light come on while driving, stop the vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so and check the oil. If you continue driving, you can cause serious damage.
  • Brake Warning Light: Another very important vehicle warning light that you should not ignore is the brake warning light. This light is an explanation point in the middle of a circle with half circles on the outside of it. If it comes on it means there is an issue with your vehicle’s braking system. The brake warning light could be triggered by something as simple as leaving the handbrake or parking brake on; however, it could be a sign that your vehicle’s brake fluid level is low or there’s a more serious mechanical problem.
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS): While this light may not be a sign of an issue as large as the ones that we reviewed above, ignoring it can still lead to problems. Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) may warn you if your tires are under- or over-inflated, helping increase your fuel economy and even potentially preventing a tire blowout (MyCarDoesWhat). This vehicle warning light looks like two-thirds of a circle with an exclamation point in the middle.

We have reviewed what we consider to be some of the most important indicator lights, but to really understand your vehicle warning lights, as we said, you should review you owner’s manual. There are so many more lights that may illuminate your dash and they are all trying to tell you that something with your vehicle needs attention. If you want to enjoy the holiday season without disruption, if one of these lights comes on, don’t ignore it.

Advanced Transmissions & Emissions specializes in transmission repair, transmission rebuilding, and transmission remanufacturing. We are also your Phoenix, AZ service team for all your other automotive repair needs from clutch issues, AC repair, steering problems, and more. We are a full service auto mechanic repair shop. If your check engine or other warning lights are on we offer a free diagnostic check while you wait. Contact us today.

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