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What Car Warning Lights Mean

George Brown, 5 years ago

5 min read

  • Advice
  • what
  • warning

Oh no! A warning light has suddenly appeared on your dashboard, you’re driving in the middle of the night, you’re on your own and it's mildly cold outside. What do you do?

You literally have no idea what that little orange death light is telling you, this is the end and there is nothing you can do.

Ok, so that might be a little melodramatic, but warning lights are very confusing.

Why do we have to try to understand hieroglyphs/really boring emojis to know what is going on?

To help you get around the potential nightmare scenario of seeing a warning light and not knowing what is going on, we have created this simple guide to help you understand what each one means.

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The Most Common Car Engine Warning Lights

What it looks like: Incoming beach ball attack


What it is: Airbag warning

When this light comes on, it can mean two things:

  • Your airbag is faulty and won’t deploy in an accident.

  • Your airbag could deploy at any moment and cause an injury.

Make sure you get this seen to immediately, you can’t afford to ignore this issue as you will be putting yourself and your passengers in serious danger.

Car Electrics Repairs

What it looks like: Missing Jigsaw piece


What it is: ECU / Engine Problem

Unfortunately, when this light comes on, there are a variety of issues that may be to blame. The ECU light comes on when there is some sort of problem within your car engine. It could be something as simple as a faulty electrical sensor or a major issue like a head gasket problem.

The bottom line is, you cannot ignore this light and you’ll need to get in touch with a garage asap.

Engine Control Unit Repairs

What it looks like: Princess Leah is in trouble


What it is: Brake System

This light will come on when there is a problem with your brakes which means you need to be extremely careful when bringing the car to a halt.

Make sure you have plenty of room and come to a very gentle stop, you never know how badly your brakes are damaged and how much stopping time you will actually get.

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What it looks like: The peace symbol needs repairing


What it is: Power Steering

When the power steering warning light comes on, you may already know what the issue is because of the way your car is handling. If your steering wheel is suddenly stiffer and the car is more difficult to maneuver, the power steering is the issue.

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What it looks like: All of my eggs are in one basket


What it is: Diesel particulate filter

When the DPF is full, this warning light will appear. Most modern diesel vehicles are fitted with a DPF to prevent too many pollutants being blown into the air so it is vital that the part is working correctly.

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What it looks like: My clarinet is drowning


What it is: Coolant Warning Light

If your car does not have enough coolant, this warning light will pop up. The light will also appear if your car engine is overheating which could be the result of a head gasket failure or serious leakage problem.

Either way, a car engine has to stay cool in order to operate and if it cannot regulate its temperature, serious problems will arise.

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What it looks like: The gravy needs topping up


What it is: Oil warning

All cars need their oil topping up on a regular basis and this warning light is one of the most common to pop up. If this light appears, pull over as soon as possible and check underneath your car, there may be a leak and oil dripping.

If you do not see a leak, then you simply need to top up your engine oil at the earliest opportunity.

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What it looks like: We’re out of horseshoes


What it is: Tyre Pressure

This warning light will appear if the pressure in one or more of your tyres doesn’t have enough air pressure. Alternatively, it could mean you have a puncture. Either way, pull over and check your rubbers.

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What it looks like: Winking lego man approaching


What it is: Battery and electrical

This light could mean that your car’s battery is on low power or that there is an electrical fault somewhere in the system. For example, if the wiring between the alternator and car battery is damaged, the car battery will not charge and you may suddenly lose power.

If you have seen any of the warning lights listed above, you can get quotes from the best local garages using WhoCanFixMyCar.

All you have to do is enter your registration plate and a few details for us to generate quotes in a matter of minutes.

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