What Are Car Dashboard Warning Lights, And What Do They Mean?

Every modern car’s dashboard has a lot of lights that are switched on or off, depending upon the circumstance. Whilst some may be basic lights, there are some lights that are very important to understand. These are known as Car Dashboard Warning Lights, as they warn us about the health and condition of our car.

In this blog, we will be looking at the various warnings we can get with the help of the lights on our car’s dashboard symbols.

Here are some basic car warning lights that follow the pattern of our traffic lights:


Car Dashboard Warning Lights: Symbols, And Their Meanings

To get a better and deeper understanding of the other car dashboard symbols and meanings, look at the list below:

1. Brake Warning Light

warning ligts

Represented by an exclamation mark in a circle, with two brackets on either side, if you see that this symbol light on the dashboard is on, then it means that the brake fluid level is low. This warning signal could glow anytime: after you fully release the parking brake or come on when you’re driving. Unless you know where your brake fluid levels are accessible and can handle the situation, this is something best left to experts.

Other dashboard warning lights could also glow along with the brake warning light. If the ABS' warning light is glowing along with the brake warning light, then it means that the braking system has malfunctioned, and your brakes may not work properly. In this case, the Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) warning light may also be glowing.

Can I drive with brake warning light on?

It is always advisable to stop driving, wherever you are, when you see that this dashboard warning light is on. Only continue to drive after the problem is fixed.

2. Engine Management Light

engine management light

This is also known as the check engine or ECU warning light. Whenever this symbol is glowing on your car dashboard, it means that your engine may not be working properly. It could be due to anything, such as lack of power, which leads to stuttering as you press the accelerator. This light could indicate several faults, ranging from minor issues like a broken electrical sensor to a much larger mechanical issue, like a fault with your emission control system or catalytic converter, or it could even be as simple as electric wire tampering.

Can I drive with engine management light on?

While you wouldn’t have to immediately stop driving your car when and if you see this symbol glowing on a car dashboard, it does mean that you need to get it checked as soon as possible, to avoid considerable damage.

3. Airbag Warning Light

warning lights airbag

This car symbol is also known as the supplemental restraint system (SRS) warning light. If this car warning light is glowing red, then it means that at least one element of the airbag safety system is not working properly. It could be the airbag system itself or the front passenger occupant classification system (which detects the front passenger’s weight and position in order to safely deploy the airbag), or the seat belt pre-tensioner system, which tightens the belt in the event of a crash.

Can I drive with airbag warning light on?

The airbag is one of the most important components of a car, as it keeps the passengers of the car safe, should an unfortunate incident take place. If this car sign is on, the airbag could deploy in the event of a crash, or in some cases, even when there is no crash. Given that the airbag is important, it is always advisable to get this condition checked as soon as you can.

4. Power Steering Warning Light

steering power

This car symbol on the dashboard is also known as the EPS or EPAS warning light. If this car warning sign is on, then it could mean that there’s a problem with the power steering. For electrically powered systems, this problem is a simple fix, as simple as rebooting a computer. You could always just turn your car of and turn it back on again after 30 seconds once you find a safe spot for the car. If this light continues to stay on, then you should get your car checked as soon as you can. It could be as simple as the power steering oil is low, or could be more serious, but getting a professional looked at it is always the best idea.

Can I drive with power steering warning light on?

While you can drive with the light being on, it is always advisable to get it checked, as once the power steering system fails, you’ll notice that the car is harder to manoeuvre. As a result, getting the issue fixed as soon as you can is a great idea.

5. Diesel Particulate Filter Warning Light

warning lightd dpf

This car dashboard light is also known as the DPF or exhaust particulate filter warning light. This occurs with engines that run on diesel. This light turns on when and if there is a problem with the exhaust particulate filter, which removes harmful soot from the exhaust gases to reduce emissions. It could indicate that the filter has become blocked with soot.

Can I drive with diesel particulate filter warning light on?

Continuing to drive while this problem is persistent, results in a lot of side effects. Not only would you be releasing black smoke every time you press the accelerator, but you would be doing considerable damage to your car for as long as you keep driving it without getting the problem fixed.

6. Engine Temperature Warning Light

warning lights engine temperature

This warning light is also called coolant temperature warning light. When you see that this light is on, on the car dashboard, it means that the engine is overheating. It could be because there is a leak in the system, or it could also be a sign of a larger problem, like a head gasket failure.

Can I drive with engine temperature warning light on?

If you see that this light is on, then you should stop your car right away, and wait until your engine cools off. Once you’ve made sure that the engine is cool enough, open the hood and check for any leaks. If there aren’t any and if the light has switched off, then you are good to go. However, if you don’t see any leaks and if the light is still on, then you should get your car checked immediately. It could be that there’s an issue with the coolant and water in the radiator, or anything else. All in all, it is always to get your car checked.

7. Coolant Levels Warning Light

warning lights coolant

When you see that this warning light on dashboard is glowing, then it usually means that the coolant levels of your car are running low. The heat from your engine is absorbed by the coolant fluid, which disperses it through the radiator, preventing your engine from overheating. The simplest fix for this problem is to get your coolant fluid refilled.

Can I drive with coolant levels warning light on?

Long journeys should be avoided at all costs when this light is on always make sure that you fill up your coolant fluid as soon as you can, in order to avoid any damage to your car.

8. Oil Warning Light

warning lights oil

This symbol on the dashboard in your car is known as the low engine oil or low oil pressure light. When you see this car symbol glowing on a car dashboard, it either means that the oil temperature is too high, causing a decreased oil level, or the oil level or pressure is too low. If the oil is not lubricating the engine effectively it could lead to expensive or even irreparable engine damage, so it’s important to act immediately.

Can I drive with oil warning light on?

If you see this light while you're driving, then you should stop your car immediately and check for any leaks under your car and under your hood. If everything looks fine but the light won’t go away, then it might mean that there is a possible leak somewhere you can’t spot. It is always suggestable to get your car to an expert in a situation like this.

9. Low Tyre Pressure Warning Light

warning lights tyre pressure

This car symbol simply means that one of your tyres may be punctured. This dashboard light looks like a tyre with an exclamation point in it indicates that at least one of your tyres has low or underinflated tyre pressure. This could happen over time, or it could be because of a puncture.

Can I drive with low tyre pressure warning light on?

Try avoiding driving during situations like these, as that would only make it worse. If you have a spare tyre and know how to fix it, then that is the first thing to do. Otherwise, if you have a breakdown cover, then opt for that. If none of these are viable options for you, then you would have to bring a professional to wherever your car is, and get the issue fixed.

10. Battery Warning Light

warning lights battery charge

This warning light on the car is also known as the battery charge light or battery charging system light. Whenever you see that this light is on, then it means that the battery is not charging. This could be due to a problem with your car’s electrical system, and it could have several reasons, such as a faulty alternator, faulty battery, bad electrical connection, battery age, bad battery or damaged cabling.

Can I drive with battery warning light on?

Whenever this happens, you could still drive until your battery is completely dead. But of course, it’s always the best idea to get the condition fixed as soon as you can.

11. Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) Warning Light

warning lights abs

The ABS comes into play when you need to make a sudden stop, or when you’re driving through difficult driving conditions, like icy roads.

Can I drive with battery anti-lock brake system warning light?

If this car sign is on, then you should still have a good control over your braking system, but it is always important to keep some distance from other vehicles, just in case. However, if the brake warning light is also on simultaneously, then it could mean that the brake system is failing. In any case, it’s always better to get your car checked.

12. Electronic Stability Problem (ESP) Warning Light

warning lights stability

This car light symbol is also known as Electronic Stability Control (ESC). If you see this warning light glowing, then means that there is a problem with traction control. If it is glowing, it means the ESP system is intervening. For example, if you’re driving on a slippery road and the light stays on, it means the ESP system is not working properly.

If the system has been deactivated, then the ESP light will glow with the word ‘OFF’, which could mean that you inadvertently turned it off. To check that, stop the engine and start it again. If the light remains on after restarting, then get it checked at a garage as the ESP system is an important safety feature.

13. Brake Pad Warning Light

warning lights brake pad

This symbol is also known as the brake pad wear warning light. If this symbol lights up, then it means a sensor has detected your brake pads are too thin.

Can I drive with brake pad warning light on?

This light usually glows up before the brake pads are too thin, to give you time to get them fixed. Being negligent in such a situation is not advisable, and getting the pads fixed straight away is the best thing to do.


Car dashboard warning lights are important as they tell us about the health and condition of our vehicles. As such, it is incredibly important that we understand what every symbol and sign indicates. It is advisable to get a warranty for your car, as a warranty makes sure that any unforeseen repair will be taken care of, and in case of any unfortunate event where you end up stranded somewhere, a breakdown cover could help you out. Warranty Direct offers a highly comprehensive warranty plan, should you be looking for one which also includes breakdown cover.

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