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What's That Light on My Dashboard? A Guide

dashboard lights

What’s That Light on My Dashboard? A Guide

Here’s the most important rule about dashboard warning lights: Don’t ignore them. They are providing you with valuable information that most of the time is calling out for you to take action. To make good decisions when a dashboard light comes on, though, you need to know a little about what they mean.

The challenge is that warning lights almost always rely on symbols rather than words, and it can be confusing to know at a glance what they mean. You usually have to wade through a confusing index and pages and pages of the owner’s manual to find an explanation.

Or you can consult this handy guide from Executive Motorcars of Randallstown, Maryland, serving the Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., metro areas. We’ll help you answer the question every driver has once in a while: “What’s that light on my dashboard?”

Check Engine Light

We start with the warning that should get your immediate attention — the check engine light. Most of the time it will appear like a silhouetted outline of an engine, but some manufacturers don’t mince words and actually spell out the warning, CHECK ENGINE.

This is the one you can least afford to ignore, as it could signal significant mechanical problems that will only get worse and lead to the demise of your car if you try to drive your way through it. However, it can also signal some more minor problems, such as a loose gas cap, so don’t feel you have to stop the car immediately. If the car seems to run OK, just make an appointment to have the car examined at your earliest possible convenience.

On the other hand, should the light come on and the car is acting odd, that’s a good signal that you should pull over and seek a tow to your nearest service station.

Battery Charge Light

This one’s much easier to figure out, as the image will be of a silhouetted battery with the plus sign and the minus sign side by side. When this light comes on, it may indicate that the battery is having a hard time either holding onto power or building up enough to run the car properly. But it can also mean a problem with the car’s alternator, which is an important component in distributing power from the battery to the proper components, or some other aspect of the wiring or electrical system in the car. This is one you should tend to as soon as you can. Otherwise, you risk being stranded on the side of a highway.

Oil Pressure Light

The oil pressure light is also fairly easy to recognize as it looks like a dripping oil can. This is also a warning light that has a range of possibilities, from minor to more worrisome. The light could just be signaling that you need to add oil to the car. But it could also indicate a leak deep inside the engine or some more serious problem, such as a broken oil pump. The easiest thing to try is adding some oil to the car and see if the warning light clicks off. If it does, great! If it comes back on, then it’s best to call your mechanic and get the car examined.

Low Tire Pressure

Here’s one that could easily be subject to interpretation — misinterpretation, even. This warning light looks like an exclamation point between two parenthesis marks. If it’s an exclamation point, it must be important, right? Well, yes, we would not be ones to advocate for ignoring warning lights. The simplest solution is to add air to all four tires using a quality gauge to check your work. If the light continues to come on after adding air, it might signal damage to the tire, and you should have the car checked.

Brake Warning

The exclamation point is back! This time, it’s in a circle inside two parentheses marks. This warning light is drawing your attention to your brakes. It can come on for reasons as simple as you’ve driven off with the parking brake engaged. Or, it could mean something more fundamental mechanically, such as problems with brake pads or other components of the braking system. It may even suggest a problem with the anti-lock braking system. While this doesn’t require an emergency visit to the mechanic, it’s probably wise to have it checked out as soon as you can for the safety of your family.

Engine Temperature Warning

This is also a warning light you don’t want to let slide. The light looks a little like a thermometer floating in the ocean, but what it’s telling you is that the engine is getting dangerously hot. This may mean that you have a leak in your system and the level of engine coolant is low. The light may also trigger if your oil level is low or there is a problem with your thermostat. If you see this light and the engine temperature gauge starts to move to the red zone, your best bet is to pull over and stop the car to let it cool and have it examined by a mechanic when possible.

Service and More at Exclusive Motorcars

Knowing the dashboard lights and their meaning can help you decide what to do next. If you choose to have your car looked at by a professional mechanic, we want Exclusive Motorcars to be your first stop . We can help identify the problems and support you with so much more. Our experts provide routine maintenance and repairs that come along in the life of any car, truck, or SUV.

The primary focus of our business is the sale of pre-owned domestic and import luxury vehicles from all the major manufacturers, including Audi, Porsche, BMW, Cadillac, Chrysler, Honda, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Land Rover, and more. We sell cars, trucks, SUVs, and crossovers and offer both hybrid and electric models.

We can also assist you in finding financing . Our finance team maintains relationships with all major Maryland lenders and will work with you to find you a monthly payment that fits well with your budget.

For luxury used car sales, financing, and service, choose Exclusive Motorcars of Baltimore. Call us for an appointment today.