Have you ever had a warning light appear and not really know what it means or what to do? Cars are pretty clever these days and have plenty of electronics and sensors built in to keep you up to date with what is happening under the bonnet. Any issues and you can expect a light to appear on your dashboard pretty quickly. However, it seems like many aren’t 100% sure of what the lights mean, or what to do they appear. So let’s discuss that.
Firstly, did you know that they are colour coded? Yep, car manufacturers didn’t just pick random colours because they looked nice. Each warning works on a traffic light system.
Green – don’t worry, everything is working fine!
Orange – uh oh, something isn’t working as it should. Drive carefully and get it checked out as soon as possible.
Red – BAD NEWS. Something has gone wrong, it’s serious and dangerous! Safely stop driving as soon as you can.
Red warning lights
These are the most pressing ones that need to be sorted out urgently and are dangerous. If one of these pops up on your dash, give us a call right away!
Brake warning light – if you know for certain that you have fully released your handbrake and this appears whilst driving it might be because your brake fluid is running low. Without enough brake fluid, your brakes can function properly so you definitely want to get this checked out.
If the brake warning light appears alongside the ABS warning light, this is telling you that the brake system is malfunctioning and may not work. This might also trigger your EBD (electronic brake force distribution) light to come on as well.
Engine temperature warning light – if the temperature of your engine is too high this light will come on. This may be due to a lack of coolant circulating the engine either from an empty tank or a leak, or it could be a more serious issue like a head gasket failure. The worst-case scenario is that your engine becomes so hot, that the metal components begin melting into one another.
Firstly, pull over in a safe space and turn the engine off to allow it to cool down again. Then check the coolant level and top up if required. Check to see if you can spot any obvious leaks too. If the warning light has turned off when you restart the engine, you should be good to go. If the light remains illuminated then you should get it looked at by a professional as soon as possible.
Airbag warning light – this light coming on means there’s something wrong with part of your safety features and that they may not work as intended. Firstly, your airbag safety system isn’t working so it could either not deploy in a crash, or deploy randomly and cause a crash. It could be that the seat belt pre-tensioner system has failed so if you do crash, the seatbelt won’t tighten to secure you. It could also be a sign that the front passenger occupant classification system which detects the passenger’s weight and position in the car could be off.
Battery warning light – this is one that you are more likely to see in winter when your car won’t start on a frosty morning. If this comes on whilst you are driving there are a couple of reasons such as a faulty alternator, bad connection or damaged cables and it means that your battery is not charging.
You may get a few more miles out of it but once the battery is flat, that’s it – it’s dead! After this, you’ll need to jump-start it or get a charger connected to bring it back to life.
Power steering warning light – this lights up to let you know there is an issue with your power steering. The fix for power steering issues could be as simple as rebooting a computer that has frozen. Just find somewhere safe to pull over, turn off the engine, wait around a minute and turn it back on again. If the light is still on, you should bring your car to us as soon, and safely as possible.
Engine oil warning light – also known as the low oil pressure or low engine oil light. If the oil temperature is too high or the pressure is too low you can expect this to ping up on your dash. This is a serious one because if the oil isn’t getting around your engine to lubricate the parts properly, then you will have some serious damage! Without enough oil, parts will grate against one another, this friction can then raise temperatures and cause parts to literally disintegrate.
Amber warning lights
Engine management light – AKA check engine light or ECU warning light. You can expect this light to come on when something is not right with the engine, like stuttering or less power passing through when you’re pressing the accelerator. It could be because of a few issues, from relatively easy fixes like a broken sensor to worse things like a fault with your catalytic converter or emission control system.
As this is an issue with your engine, you want to get it looked at as soon as possible. If you continue to drive normally with this light on, you will be causing more damage to your engine and could be left with an even bigger bill!
Diesel particulate filter warning light – also known as the exhaust particulate filter warning light. If you drive a diesel then you’ve probably heard of a DPF before. This works to remove harmful soot from the exhaust gases to reduce emissions. If this light comes on it could be suggesting that the filter has become blocked and needs a deep clean or replacement. As well as the light coming on, you’ll probably notice a thick black cloud of smoke coming from your vehicle every time you press the accelerator.
Driving whilst this light is on is a big no-no and could cause more damage to your car. The sooner you get this changed the better as they are an expensive piece of kit.
Coolant level warning light – coolant does exactly what it says on the tin, it keeps your engine cool. If this warning light appears then it’s usually just a reminder that your coolant levels are running low and need topping up. You can still make short journeys with this light on but you should top up your levels as soon as possible as you don’t want your engine to overheat.
Ps. Make sure to wait until your engine is cool before adding more coolant!
Brake pad warning light – if this warning light appears it’s letting you know that your brake pads are too thin and that you need to get them changed. This light will give you a bit of time to get to a garage and get them replaced, but you should get them done as soon as possible as it’s extremely dangerous to drive with thin brake pads.
ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) warning light – ABS should only really come on when you are making a sudden stop or driving in icy conditions. If the light pings on by itself and then turns off again, you should be fine but we’d advise driving carefully and keeping a safe distance. If the ABS light comes on at the same time as your brake warning light, there could be a serious issue within your braking system and you should stop driving right away and call for help.
Low tyre pressure warning light – this is here to warn you that the pressure in your tyres has dropped which may be due to a puncture or just a decrease in pressure over time. Check your tyres to see if you can spot any damage and carefully drive to your nearest petrol station or garage as these usually have air compressors. Top up the tyre back to the recommended limit (you’ll usually find this in your manual or on the inside of the door frame). If you have a puncture then you’ll need a new tyre. CCM are partners with BlackCircles.com so you can find your tyre on their website and get it delivered directly to us to fit.
ESP (Electronic Stability Problem) warning light – also known as the electronic stability control warning light, will warn you of a problem with traction control. If this warning light starts flashing it’s just letting you know that it is working and trying to steady the car and chances are you are driving on a difficult or slippery road. If it comes on and stays on for a long time, that means that it isn’t functioning properly. Try turning the engine off and on again. If it is still on then it’s time to get it checked out.
We hope this has helped you understand some of what your car is telling you. If you ever need more advice, feel free to give us a call!