What do the lights on your dashboard mean?

Most modern cars are filled with electronic sensors and gadgets which have been designed to make driving and car maintenance easier. This means that, in many cases, the number of warning lights on your dashboard will have increased and not all of us know what they mean.

Setyres have created a helpful guide to show you what the most important dashboard warning lights mean and what you should do if they appear.

Brake System

This symbol indicates that there is a problem with your brakes. This could be your brake fluid becoming too low, worn out brake pads or a fault with the anti-lock braking system. The issue with your brakes may be minor or highly dangerous, but as your brakes are key to your safety on the road you need to contact a specialist if you see this appear on your dashboard. Similarly, when the handbrake is applied the brake light should appear, but if you notice that this no longer switches on, you will need to take your vehicle to be checked by a specialist.

Engine Oil

If this light appears during a journey or remains on after ignition, your engine oil may need topping up. As oil lubricates your engine and ensures that everything is working smoothly, you must check the engine oil level as soon as possible and top it up if necessary. If the oil level is correct, this light may then mean that the pressure or temperature of the oil is not right and we recommend that you contact a specialist immediately if you wish to avoid expensive engine damage.

Vehicle Charging System

The battery symbol indicates a potentially dangerous issue with your vehicle’s charging system. These could include a slack battery, a broken alternator belt or total alternator failure. In any case, your vehicle will be running off energy stored in the battery rather than charging as you are driving, so as soon as this power source is expired, your vehicle will grind to a halt. For this reason, as soon as you notice this light you need to pull over, switch off your vehicle and contact a specialist.

Engine Management

This light signifies that there is a problem with the engine and although not crucial, you should have it checked over by a specialist as soon as possible as driving around any longer could cause potentially irreversible and expensive damage to your vehicle components.

Power Steering System

This symbol, which is sometimes accompanied by an exclamation mark, indicates that there is an error with the power steering system and it may become less responsive or fail altogether. If the power does stop working, which may happen when you see this light, you will still be able to steer your vehicle but it will become heavier and stiffer. If this happens whilst you are manoeuvring or travelling at high speeds, this could be extremely dangerous so it would be wise to stop as soon as possible, or at least reduce your speed and drive cautiously until you can have it checked by a specialist.

Anti-Lock Brake System

The Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) helps you to retain control whilst braking and without this, your vehicle may skid when you press the brake pedal sharply. This light could indicate a number of faults ranging from a small brake fluid issue to the whole system being disengaged. If this light is on, you can safely drive your vehicle to a specialist but you must avoid braking sharply and driving at fast speeds to keep yourself safe on the road.

This is not a complete guide and there are many other dashboard warning lights which could signify problems with your car. It is worth remembering that warning lights are colour coded and this can help you to decipher the severity of the warning, even if you aren’t sure what the symbol means.




If a dashboard warning light has recently illuminated on the dashboard of your vehicle and you are not sure which action you should take, contact your local Setyres centre for guidance.

Posted on: 11/03/2016

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