If we look at the dashboard of our car we find
more than 150 light indicators. But we only pay attention to them when they turn on, especially since we are largely unaware of their meaning. In this sense, it is essential to be aware of
how to react when turned on a yellow or red warning light on the instrumentation, or even if several light up at the same time, accompanied by whistles and sirens. If it happens, it will be necessary to stop, but not immediately… but safely in the first appropriate place. In other words, it is very important to prevent the appearance of a warning light from being the cause of an accident. It will be then, with the car stopped,
when will it be time to find out what has broken.
what do the colors mean? From
ALD Automotive They show us and explain the most important ones and indicate that, roughly speaking, there are three types of colors that will indicate the severity or the type of attention required for the breakdown. Red means immediate attention; yellow, attention when stopping the vehicle; and green is merely informative.
Braking system: The most frequent reason why this warning light comes on is that the brake fluid level is too low. If this warning light comes on while driving, it is important to test the brake pedal: if it has lost a lot of fluid or one of the two circuits has emptied, it is possible that the pedal will have to be pressed very hard to stop the vehicle, and that the car tends to drift to one side, so it is vitally important to stop the car on a straight. This warning light also appears if there is a fault in the systems that use the brakes, such as the hill start assist or the emergency brake booster.
Parking break: its appearance is due to the parking brake being activated. In cars with a manual parking brake, this warning light is a reminder to remove it before starting to circulate. On vehicles with electric parking brakes it means the brake is properly applied.
brake pads: This witness differs from the previous ones in that its color is amber, there is nothing written inside it and the parentheses are discontinuous. This pictogram appears when one of the brake pads has worn out and the conductor they incorporate has begun to make contact with the disc. Automatically shuts off when changing pads.
ABS system: the appearance of this warning light indicates a fault in the anti-lock braking system. Next to this pictogram, the stability control warning light comes on, which cannot work without ABS. Likewise, the electronic brake distribution and electronic differential lock functions are also deactivated. Unlike when ESP intervenes, the ABS warning light does not flash when the system intervenes. The fault is usually in one of the sensors that measure the rotation of the wheels, and the repair is around 70 euros.
oil pressure: this red warning light comes on when the oil pressure at the pump outlet is less than the minimum required to properly lubricate the engine. With the engine off, it lights up when the ignition is switched on and stays on until the engine is started. If you continue with the engine running, the most likely reason is that there is hardly any oil left in the crankcase. Driving with this warning light on can lead to engine seizing. This is due to the increase in temperature inside the engine, which will cause the parts to start melting.
coolant temperature: controlled by the coolant temperature sensor, this warning light will come on if the engine starts to heat up because there is no coolant or because its level is very low. If the car in question does not have a thermometer, there is this witness that reports its temperature. If you have a thermometer, the first icon is usually replaced by a lightable mark at the end of the scale.
alternator failure: this warning light stays on with the ignition on and the engine stopped -except in cars with Start&Stop, for convenience. If it comes on with the engine running, it means the alternator is not putting out enough voltage. This is not a dangerous situation, but the battery will be fully discharged even while driving. If the alternator is seriously damaged, it may stall while running.
Power steering: Indicates a fault in the electrical steering assistance system that can range from not perceptibly affecting the assistance to system disconnection. Driving without power steering is possible, but not recommended: not only because of how hard the transmission will be, but also because working “in reverse” can damage the transmission mechanism.
airbag: Depending on the age of the car, there may be one warning light for all the airbags or one for each type. Often, the fault is not in the airbag, but in the connections – especially if it is a seat-mounted one.
Seat belt: this warning light does not warn of a breakdown, but rather that an occupant is not wearing the seat belt. It lights up, along with an audible warning, when the car exceeds 25 km/h, has traveled 500 meters or has been moving for more than 60 seconds. The acoustic warning is deactivated after five minutes, but the warning light does not turn off. Instructions for disabling this system can be requested from the manufacturer.
Auto switch: This icon is typically used when a fault occurs with an automatic gearbox or an all-wheel drive system with gearbox or lockable differentials. When the fault affects the change, an “emergency” mode is usually activated in which only three gears work.
particulate filter: this warning light is only found on the instrumentation of cars with a diesel engine. It is controlled by the pressure difference before and after the particulate filter, it indicates to the driver that he must carry out a particular driving -high speeds and low gears- in order to clean it. Ignoring it can be very expensive: if too much dirt accumulates in the filter, it will have to be replaced… which will cost from 700 euros.
emissions anomaly: Flashes when abnormal parameters are recorded in the engine management, injection system, ignition system or exhaust. If it flashes, it is important to stop accelerating as soon as possible; otherwise exhaust components may be damaged by overheating. An “emergency” engine operating mode may be activated which provides greatly reduced performance. If the anomaly lasts a long time, the warning light stays on permanently, indicating that an incident has been recorded in the engine control unit and that a workshop should be visited to find out what has happened.
ESP: This icon flashes whenever the stability control intervenes by selectively braking the wheels -in many Japanese cars, an audible warning also sounds-, and stays on if the stability control is deactivated or has a fault.
tire pressure: By law, currently all cars must have a system capable of detecting a flat tire. Almost all models use a system that detects that one of the wheels rotates more slowly than the others, this warning light lights up red – the driver must then try to find out which one is punctured. For the system to work, it needs to be “initialized” each time the tire pressures are adjusted – during this process, the system “learns” the radius of the wheels.
Fuel level: indicates that the level of remaining fuel is low -generally, it is activated when the autonomy falls below 80 kilometers or, if the car consumes a lot, a little below 1/4 tank-. Generally, the side on which the hose is indicated in the pictogram coincides with the side of the car on which the filler cap is located. In addition, there is usually an arrow next to the fuel gauge pictogram indicating this.
ice on the road: more and more cars incorporate a warning light like this… or that show it on the instrument panel screen. It lights up when the temperature drops below three degrees Celsius.
Defective bulb: in many cars, when a bulb burns out, a warning light like this one lights up. Depending on the degree of sophistication, the system can identify the burned-out bulb with greater or lesser precision -by means of a message on the multifunction screen-.
Star&Stop not available: shows in the instrumentation when the driver voluntarily deactivates the system that stops the engine, while the vehicle is stopped or said system cannot work for other reasons. For example, when the engine has not yet reached the optimum operating temperature or the climate control has been set to a very low temperature.
No windshield washer fluid: The tank sensor detects that the tank has run out. Its function is important so that the driver’s visibility is optimal at all times.
recommended rest: More and more cars incorporate a system that analyzes the movements of the steering wheel and detects when the driver seems to be sleepy or exhausted. Then this icon lights up on the instrument panel, along with a legend recommending you take a break and rest.
long lights: road lighting on. It is blue because it is the color that stands out the most at night. They cannot be used in town. On highways and expressways you also have to change them for the short ones whenever another vehicle comes from the front, even if there is a median.
automatic high beam: the high beams are in automatic mode and will turn on as soon as the camera that controls them detects that they will not dazzle anyone.
recommended gear: Currently it is mandatory for all cars to have a recommended gear indicator… although there is a wide variety of icons.
Lane departure warning: The lane departure warning system has an icon that changes color. It is orange while powered on, and lights up green when it detects the lines and starts to work.
Cruise control: In green, it means that the system is on and maintaining the programmed speed. If it is a radar cruise control, this other icon is usually used.
blind spot assistant: Unlike the LDW warning light, this icon lights up green when the system is active… and only lights up amber when a fault is detected.
hit the brakes: this pictogram can only be seen on board cars with automatic transmission. It illuminates amber when the lever is in P, indicating that it is necessary to apply the brake to move it. Doing so turns the lamp green. This security system, called Interlock, prevents an automatic car from starting to move without anyone at the wheel.
Front and rear fog lights: distinguished by the undulating vertical line. The front fog lights, the line points downwards, implying that it is a short-range light. The rear fog light is amber because if used without fog it is very annoying to other drivers.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.