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Dashboard Warning Lights

Know what the symbols on your dashboard mean

Dashboard Warning Lights

Seeing a warning light appear on your vehicles’ dashboard can be alarming and you might not always know what they mean or how important they are. Whilst you will need to visit a specialist to diagnose what has caused the problem, it is important that you understand what your vehicle is trying to tell you and the severity of the problem.

The warning lights on the dashboard are colour coded to help you to decipher how dangerous the issue may be. Red lights indicate a problem which could be serious so you must stop as soon as possible and call a specialist. Yellow lights are less serious but specialist advice is still required whereas green lights are informative.

When you start your vehicle, most of the symbols on your dashboard will light up. If they stay on after you have started driving, or switch on whilst you are on the road, you should make an appointment with a specialist.

Serious Potential Problems


This symbol indicates that there is a problem with the braking system in your vehicle. As one of the most fundamental components of your vehicle, you must stop and call a specialist if you see this light appear when you are driving. It could indicate:

  • that your brake pads are worn out
  • your brake fluid needs replacing
  • a fault with any part of the braking system.


If this light appears on your dashboard then there is a problem with your charging system. This means that your battery has stopped charging and your vehicle is currently running on stored energy. When this happens, your vehicle will grind to a halt as soon as the power expires, which could be highly dangerous, so you must find somewhere safe to pull over as soon as possible. You will need to contact a specialist if this light appears, as they will be able to decipher the problem with your battery.

Engine Oil

The engine oil warning light could mean that your oil needs topping up so you should stop and check the level as soon as possible and top up if necessary, when the vehicle is cold. If the oil level is correct or the light does not go up after you have filled it up, you will need to visit a specialist. This may mean that the pressure or temperature of the oil is not correct. Do not ignore this sign, engine oil provides lubricant for your engine and without it your vehicle could suffer serious engine damage.

Coolant Temperature

This sign indicates that engine temperature has exceeded its normal limits. Best case scenario, this means that your engine coolant needs to be topped up, so you should first stop, wait for your vehicle to cool and check that your coolant is at its necessary limit. Worst case, it may be overheating due to a more serious, underlying problem such as a head gasket failure. Therefore, if you see this sign, you must contact a specialist immediately.


This light can be illuminated in either red or yellow. If it is red, there may be a problem with one of the airbags in your vehicle or the airbag system in general. This means that your airbag may not be released in an accident or could randomly be deployed whilst you are driving, so you must have this seen to as soon as possible.

Specialist Attention Required

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

Most modern vehicles are fitted with a TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system) which monitors the pressure of tyres and notifies the driver when that pressure changes. When this light appears, your tyre pressure has dropped and you will need to check your tyre pressure. Also, inspect your tyre for damage as this may indicate that you have suffered a puncture.


This light will appear when there is an issue with the engine. Whilst not always serious, you must contact a specialist if you notice this light appear. This is because continuing to drive could aggravate the problem and you may cause irreparable engine damage.

Power Steering

This symbol indicates that there is something wrong with the power steering system and it is in danger of failing. If this happens, your vehicle should still be driveable, however, it will become stiff and heavy and potentially unmanageable for some motorists. If this light comes on you should slow down, as it could be a real problem at high speed, and stop when safe.

Information and Advice

Green warning lights are fairly self-explanatory and their function is to inform rather than warn. These lights, which are also sometimes coloured blue, are used to tell drivers which lights are on, which direction they are indicating and if they need to change gear.

For further information on what certain dashboard warning lights mean, contact your local PTA Garage Services branch where one of our specialists will be happy to offer further advice.

If you have noticed one of your warning lights illuminate recently visit PTA Garage Services for a diagnostics test.