Modern cars, including EVs are filled with electronics and packed with internal sensors to monitor how your vehicle is behaving while on the on mode. It’s very important to know what car dashboard warning lights tell because you might be able to avoid a car breakdown or even a full-on failure. So here’s what the different yellow and red warning lights on your dashboard mean, why these lights come on, how urgent the problem is, and finally, what you should do when you see them. The car dashboard warning lights on your dashboard follow a traffic light colour system:
- Green: The car system is working correctly or is currently in use
- Yellow: Something is not working on your car correctly – take extra care and check it out as soon as possible
- Red: There is a serious and potentially dangerous problem on your car– stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so.
|Brake warning light
|Engine management light
|Airbag warning light
|Power steering warning light
|Exhaust particulate filter warning light
|DPF warning light
|Coolant levels warning light
|Engine oil warning light
|Low tyre pressure warning light
|Battery warning light
|Anti-lock brake system (ABS) warning light
|Electronic stability problem (ESP) system light
|Brake pad warning light
|Engine temperature warning light
Don’t see the car dashboard light you need? Check out your car’s manufacturer-specific warning lights.
- Brake warning light
Also commonly known as the brake system warning light, parking brake warning light, or the brake fluid warning light. If this red light stays on after you fully release the car parking brake or comes on when you’re driving, it may mean that the brake fluid level is low. Unless given you know how to check your brake fluid levels by yourself, this will be one for the professionals. If the ABS dashboard warning light is also illuminated, this signals that the braking system has malfunctioned and your car brakes may not function properly. In this event, the Electronic Brake Force Distribution (the EBD) warning light may also be illuminated on your car dashboard.
Can you still drive a car with the brake warning light on?
It would help if you didn’t risk this. The brakes are one of the most critical safety features of your car, so it’s very important to act on them immediately when you see this red warning light on the dash. Pull over and stop the car as soon as it’s safe to do so – keep your speed down and avoid braking suddenly. Unless you know how to inspect your brake fluid levels yourself, this will be one for the experts, so get yourself to a garage. Don’t risk driving when your car brakes are not working properly.
- Engine management light
Also known as the check engine or the ECU warning light. When your engine management light is illuminated, it’s usually accompanied by tell-tale signs that the engine is not functioning properly, such as a lack of power or stuttering as you push the accelerator. This light could mean a number of faults, from minor issues like a damaged electrical sensor to a much bigger mechanical issue, like a defect with your emission control system or just a catalytic converter.
How long can you drive a car with your check engine light on?
If the check engine light comes on, you should get it inspected as soon as you can, as by persisting in driving, you risk causing further, potentially irreparable damage to your car engine.
- Airbag warning light
Also known as the supplemental restraint system (the SRS) warning light. When this light goes red, it indicates that at least one element of the airbag safety system is not functioning correctly: either the airbag system itself; or the front passenger occupant category system (which also detects the front passenger’s weight and also position in order to safely deploy the airbag in an emergency); or the seat belt pre-tensioner system, which pulls the belt in the event of a car crash.
Can you still drive a car with your airbag light on?
If the car airbag system is not working correctly, it may not go off in a crash – or in some instances, it could even deploy suddenly and cause a crash. Either way, the airbag system is an extremely important safety feature of your car, so if this dash light comes on, please get it checked out immediately by a mechanic.
- Power steering warning light
Also known as the EPS or even EPAS warning light. This car dashboard warning light indicates that there’s a problem with the power steering. For the electric-powered systems, this issue could be as simple to fix as rebooting a computer. Find a secure place to stop and try turning the car off and back on again after about 30 seconds. If the car light stays on, you should take your car to get inspected as soon as you can.
Can you drive with your EPS light on?
You can do so, but if the power steering system fails, you will detect that the car is pretty harder to manoeuvre, and you should take additional care – it could be risky to drive at high motorway speeds without the car power steering assistance.
- Diesel particulate filter warning light
Also known as the DPF or also as exhaust particulate filter warning light. If you have a diesel car, one of these lights will come on if there is an issue with the exhaust particulate filter, which extracts harmful soot from the exhaust gases to lower emissions. It could mean that the filter has become blocked with engine soot.
Can you still drive with the DPF light on?
As well as removing a plume of toxic black smoke every time you press the accelerator, driving with a clogged filter could cause more serious damage to your car. You should go to a car garage to get it checked as soon as possible, as these filters can be very expensive to replace.
- Engine temperature warning light
Also known as the engine coolant temperature warning light. This car dashboard light will come on when the engine is overheating a lot. This could mean that the coolant levels are running very low, perhaps due to a leak in the engine system, or it could be a sign of an even larger issues, like a head gasket failure.
Can you still drive the car with the engine overheating light on?
If this light turns red, you should stop your car straight away, as, without enough coolant, your car engine could get so hot that it effectively welds itself together, causing irremediable damage. Stop the car and wait until the engine has cooled off before inspecting the gauge on the side of the coolant tank located under the car bonnet, topping up as required.
While you’re still under the hood, have a look to see if there are any noticeable leaks. If you can’t notice any and the light goes off after topping up, then you should be fine to resume your journey. If this light comes back on again after topping up, you should get it checked out to mend the underlying issue. An overheating vehicle engine can cut out as well.
- Coolant levels warning light.
Coolant fluid absorbs the engine heat from your car engine and disperses it through the radiator to prevent your car engine from overheating. This car yellow warning light will come on when your coolant levels are running very low to remind you to top them up soonest possible.
Can you still drive with the coolant level light on?
You should Avoid making any long journeys or trips without sufficient coolant: you need to stop and top up as soon as possible otherwise, you risk having a serious damage to your vehicle. Wait for the engine to cool down first before topping up the coolant. If this dashoard light comes on often, get your car serviced to check there isn’t a leak somewhere.
- Oil warning light
This is Also known as the low engine oil or the low oil pressure light. The oil warning light normally comes on when either the oil temperature gets too high or when the oil level or pressure is too low. If the oil is not lubricating the car engine effectively, it could lead to expensive or even irreparable engine damage, so it’s very important to act fast.
Can you still drive with the low engine oil light on?
When this oil light comes on, you should stop your car as soon as possible and turn off the car engine. Have a look for any seen oil leaks under the car, and then check the engine oil levels, topping up if necessary. If the engine oil levels are totally fine, then the oil pump may be faulty. Check your car’s engine oil levels, as driving any further could damage the engine irrepairably.
While you’re still under the hood, have a look to see if there are any observable leaks. If you can’t notice any and the light goes off after topping up, then you should be fine to continue your driving journey. If the light comes back on again after a recent topping up, you should get it checked out by a mechanic at a garage to fix the underlying problem.
- Low tyre pressure warning light
Many modern cars are currently fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems that will let you know when the pressure falls. This could happen over some time, or it could be because of a tyre puncture.
Can you still drive a car with your tyre pressure light on?
Yes you can, but you should drive a car with extra care and aim to top up with air at the next available opportunity. Low tyre pressure can also cause unsafe driving conditions, so reduce your speed, and try to avoid braking suddenly or even making any violent steering manoeuvres. Most petrol stations around and garages will have an air compressor you can use to check your car tyre pressure. Top up the air in the car tyres according to the vehicle manufacturer specification in your owner’s manual.
- Battery warning light
Also known as the battery low charge light or the battery charging system light. If this light comes on yur dash when you’re driving it indicates that the battery is not charging. This could be due to an underlying problem with your car’s electrical system and it could have numerous causes, such as a bad electrical connection, faulty alternator, faulty battery, or the damaged cabling.
Can you still drive a car with the battery charging system light on?
Your auto will still run as normal until the battery is dead but once it is drained nothing else in your car will work – so get to a nearby garage quickly before you run out of juice. If you do run out of battery charge, you can try to jump-start it.
- Anti-lock brake system (ABS) warning light
ABS is a very important safety feature that really comes into play when you need to make an abrupt stop, or in a difficult driving conditions such as on icy roads.
Can you still drive with the ABS light on?
If the ABS dashboard light comes on by itself you should still have normal, unassisted car braking, so it’s safe to continue your travel – but keep your distance, take additional care, and get it checked by a technician as soon as possible. If it goes on with the brake warning light, it could mean that the brake system is failing and you need to stop straight away and seek assistance from a technician.
- Electronic stability problem (ESP) warning light
Also called the Electronic Stability Control (ESC), this warning light indicates that there is a problem with traction control. If it’s flashing it means the cars ESP system is intervening – for instance, if you’re driving on a slippery road. If the light stays on the car it means the ESP system is not working properly. The ESP lamp will light up with the word ‘OFF’ if the system has been halted, in which case you may have also inadvertently turned the functionality off. To check this, try stopping the car and restarting the engine. If the esp light remains on after restarting get it fitted at a garage as the ESP system is an important safety feature.
- Brake pad warning light
Also called the car brake pad wear warning light, if this symbol shows up it represents a sensor has noticed your brake pads are too thin and needs replacement.
Can you drive with the brake pad light on?
This dashboard warning light should come on before the car brake pads become dangerously thin, so you have time to get them adjusted. You should replace it as soon as you can though, as if they wear out entirely it could be extremely dangerous.