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Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Kevin V


Your dashboard lights up with lots of symbols each time you start the car, but what do they mean – and what if one stays on?

Cars have a range of dashboard warning lights, such as the oil pressure warning light or engine management light, which are designed to alert you if one of a variety of systems isn’t quite right. Many cars show these warning lights briefly when you turn on the ignition, but they should soon go out again. If one or more of these lights stays on once the engine is runnig, it could be a sign there’s something wrong with your car.

You might have noticed that dashboard warning lights can be displayed in various colours: red, amber, green and blue. These usually denote how serious the problem is; blue and green warning lights are less urgent, but we recommend taking the same precautions as you would for more serious warnings because acting sooner rather than later can prevent an issue from getting significantly worse or causing damage to your car. It’s best to stop as soon as it’s safe to do so and then check the car’s manual for further advice before continuing on with your journey.

A low windscreen washer fluid warning light is an example of one of the less urgent and easier-to-fix issues, whereas more serious faults will be displayed with red and amber-coloured warning lights, and should be checked as soon as possible by a professional. This is especially true of any issues relating to the brakes, engine, oil or gearbox because it could put you at danger or cause irreparable damage to your car if it isn’t sorted promptly.

The majority of car warning lights are universal for all makes and models of cars, but their location on or around the dashboard can vary. We recommend looking at your car’s handbook to check what they all mean. Here we guide you through the most common and important dashboard warning lights you might encounter in your car.


Check engine light


If this warning illuminates, it’s very important to get your car checked, even if it feels completely normal to drive. This is because it warns of a potential problem with the engine, which you’ll want to avoid damaging at all costs.

This light can come on for a very wide range of problems, so while it’s likely to be just a faulty sensor or minor issue, a proper diagnosis is critical to prevent potential damage.


Oil pressure warning light