Example of a dashboard with all lights turned on

Knowing the dashboard symbols in your vehicle and understanding when it’s urgent to respond to them can save you a whole lot of money in the long run. It can also be a matter of life and death—a worn out or low-pressure tire can cause you to run off the road, or a blown engine could cause a fire.

All kinds of things can go wrong with any vehicle, and the onus is on the driver of the vehicle to know and pay attention to the dashboard symbols when they light up. Here’s a list of dashboard symbols and their significance that every driver should be aware of:

Check Engine Light

It’s shaped like an engine and easy to recognize. When it lights up, that’s a sensor letting you know that there is a problem that needs attention, such as low compression. It’s a problem that must immediately be addressed by a trusted engine specialist.

Engine Oil Check

Cars can now check the pressure of their engine oil. It’s usually lit up in red and shaped like a watering pot with a drip of water at the mouth. Low oil pressure reduces lubrication in the engine. Mechanical problems can happen and force the machine to stop working, leaving you stuck on the road. Get it checked out quickly.

Stability or Traction Light

That symbol of a winding road behind a car is the traction control. Unless you are a stunt driver and temporarily turned the light off, you should leave it on. You are to keep it on because, if it ever turns off on its own, it’s a warning that your vehicle has lost traction or stability. As before, you need to visit an auto repair shop as soon as possible to prevent an accident.

Break System Symbol

A circle on your dashboard with an exclamation sign in the center tells you that your brakes aren’t working correctly. It could be the hydraulics or a problem with a section of the brakes. Either way, pull over as soon as it’s safe to get your vehicle towed to an expert mechanic.

ABS Warning Symbol

This symbol has the letters ABS written in a circle and refers to the anti-locking brake system. If this fails, your car’s brake system may lock up, and coming to a halt may not be easy. Take the vehicle to the nearest brake expert.

Coolant Level Symbol

That thermometer symbol lighting up on your dashboard means your vehicle is overheating, and you need to pull over at the nearest safe spot. Turn your engine off for about half an hour. If the car wasn’t smoking, you can get any piece of cloth to open the coolant tank to check the level, then drive to the nearest auto store to replenish it. However, if the vehicle was smoking, you need to call a towing service.

Battery Symbol

The symbol has the shape of a battery, and when it lights up, that could mean a problem with your alternator. The battery isn’t being adequately charged, and the vehicle could leave you stranded with a dead battery. Get a diagnosis as quickly as possible.

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