Don’t Ignore These Dashboard Warning Lights


Traffic lights, streetlights, display lights in store windows – there are a lot of bright, shiny illuminations we see every day out on the road. There are also several lights inside the car that we’re used to seeing. Whether it’s a seat belt sign or an airbag warning, these indicators communicate important messages from the car.

Of course, some of the messages are more imperative than others. Ignoring one as important as a check engine light,for example, could become hazardous, not just to the car, but to the driver and any occupants as well. That’s why, it’s crucial to understand the warning lights on your car’s dashboard and what to do when one lights up.

To help, here are four examples of dashboard warning lights you should never ignore.

Low Fuel Light

Let’s start with a basic sign every driver should know: the low fuel light. Unless your car is fully electric, it needs gas to operate. When gas runs dangerously low, the vehicle will signal with a low fuel indicator. Ignoring this light could end with the car sputtering to a stop as you desperately pull to the side of the road. This puts you and potentially a lot of other motorists at risk.

This light is pretty easy to recognize since it’s represented by the icon of a fuel pump. Your dash may also display a message in text or indicate with a noise. Don’t trust your car to continue chugging along once it’s gone past “E.” Instead, make a pit stop as soon as you’re able to when you receive this warning.

Battery Light

Another common – yet hopefully less frequently seen – dashboard warning is the battery light. Easy to decipher because it looks just like the item in question, this light could be indicating several different issues. Generally, when it pops on, it means the battery is dead or disconnected. That being said, if the light is on and the car starts and drives normally, it could be a more long-term issue. The said issue may be with the battery itself or possibly within the alternator, the vehicle’s wiring, or other electrical components.

Coolant Temperature Light

Third on our list is the coolant temperature warning. Somewhat resembling a thermometer riding a couple of waves, this light lets you know the car is running too hot. There could be many causes for this. It might be a coolant hose has sprung a leak, the coolant levels in the radiator are low or there’s a broken water pump. If you see this light suddenly turn on while driving, it’s serious. You should get the overheated car to a trusted mechanic as soon as possible to help diagnose and address the issue. Otherwise, it could lead to much more dangerous – and more expensive – engine problems down the road.

Check Engine Light

Last, but certainly not least, the check engine light is one no driver should ever ignore. Represented by the shape of a silhouetted engine, this light is easy to recognize as well. Alternatively, it may appear in the text as “CHECK ENGINE” in all caps, depending on the make and model. There are many possibilities for why the light turned on, such as an ill-fitting gas cap, worn solenoid, or loose wiring – practically anything involving the car’s motor and emissions system.

While you shouldn’t panic if it turns on while driving, you should plan to get the car checked out immediately by a mechanic. If, however, the car begins to operate erratically or make strange noises, pull over safely and call for a tow – or else you, other drivers, and your vehicle could be put at serious risk.

These four examples merely scratch the surface of all the possible warning lights your car could display. For more information on other lights, please see the accompanying resource from Goodwill Car Donations.

Dashboard Warning Lights Infographic

Infographic provided by Goodwill Car Donations, learn more about car donation DC.

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