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Dashboard lights - What do they really mean?

When a light comes on your dashboard it indicates there is a problem and therefore you should check it out asap! If you happen to be driving when a light suddenly comes on, you should slow down and pull over when it is safe to do so.

There are several warning lights each with different meanings which can be daunting to get your head around, so to help you out, we have summarised some of the most common dashboard lights and explained what they mean should they come on.  

Top Tip

Always keep your car manual handbook in your vehicle incase you need it to check a dashboard light in an emergency.

Braking System warning light

There could be a problem with your braking. Sometimes it can be simply because you have not released the handbrake correctly, so check your handbrake first.

If the light is still on, pull over when it is safe to do so and call for roadside assistance. It could be an issue with brake pad sensors or brake fluid levels. Either way it is recommended you get this assessed asap as it may be a more serious problem.


Probably the most well-known light and easy to translate. This means your fuel levels are low and you must refill soon. Monitor your fuel levels, especially if you are planning a long journey and make sure you do not get stranded due to something as simple as running out of fuel. Do not be an amber gambler!

Oil pressure warning light  

One of the most important lights, do not ignore! This is linked to your engine / pump which keeps the car running.  As soon as this light shows on your dashboard you should get it investigated.


If this light comes on it is vital you get your car checked asap.  Majority of the time it could be flashing due to a faulty sensor however we can not assume this is the reason and it is best to get professional advice.


This is a simple warning your car is due for a service. It is recommended to regularly get your car serviced – a well maintained car can save you money in the long run.

Top Tip

keep a log of all services in your handbook. This can be very valuable information when the time comes to sell your car.

Temperature warning light

This means the engine is too hot and at risk of overheating - you may be low in antifreeze or coolant levels and they need topped up. If this light comes on, stop, and get the issue resolved asap as driving with this light on can result in engine failure, which is dangerous and can be very expensive to repair.

Tyre pressure warning light

Basically, it is telling you your tyres are low in pressure and you should go to your nearest garage or service station to top up the air in the tyres. This can sometimes come on after you get new tyres fitted also.  All you need to do is reset the system, this can be done by pressing the icon button (same as what is shown on your dashboard) or in new cars it can be through the radio system.

Top Tip

The recommended tyre pressure levels will be noted within the car manual.

ABS – antilock braking system

When you start your ignition, this light will display on the dashboard initially but should disappear as it has completed its self-check. However, if it remains on it means the ABS has been deactivated. Your car will still drive ok but should get it checked out asap as braking can be affected.

If the light comes on and stays on it is recommended you get it checked.

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