Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (2024)


Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (1)

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');$businessLinkMobileCount = $('.business-customer-mobile').length;if ($areYouBusinessCustomer.length && $businessLinkMobileCount == 0) {$mobileBusinessCustomerLink.html($areYouBusinessCustomer.html());$('.mobile-grey').append($mobileBusinessCustomerLink);}if (window.aa.helpers.cache.cachedElements.$window.width() <= mobileBreakpoint) {// console.log("smaller than breakpoint");$(".mobile-grey a, .nav-logo a ").attr("tabindex", "-1");$("#mainNavigation button, .mobile-tablet-menu-open ").attr("disabled", "disabled");$('#mainNavigation').addClass('mobile-main-nav').removeClass('desktop-main-nav');$('.mobile-grey').appendTo('.desktop-white');$('nav.aa-mega-menu').addClass('mobile-nav');if (!$('.scroller').length) {$('#site-header-yellow >.wrapper').wrap("

");}$('.mobile-tablet-menu').animate({ width: 'show' }, 30);$primaryHeadingCount = 0;$("#mainNavigation > ul > li.primary").each(function () {$primaryHeadingForMobile = $('

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    ");}$('.mobile-tablet-menu').animate({ width: 'hide' }, 0);$('button > hr').css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});$('.aa-mega-menu').css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});$('').show();$('#mainNavigation > ul.aa-main-nav > li.primary > button').keydown(function (e) {if (e.which === 13 || e.keyCode === 13) { /// for ENTER pressconst boxes = document.querySelectorAll('.anchor');boxes.forEach((box, index) => {box.setAttribute('aria-expanded', 'true');});//remove active mega menu from HOVER if open if ($currentHoverMenuItem) {var $primaryNavigationListItem = $currentHoverMenuItem.parent();$currentHoverMenuItem.removeClass('menu-active').css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});var $menuUnderLine = $primaryNavigationListItem.find('button > hr');$menuUnderLine.css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});$currentHoverMenuItem = null;}applyMenuHoverInEffects($(this).parent());$('#mainContent').removeAttr("style");$('#mainContent').css({"opacity": "0.5","height": 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$megaMenu = $($this).find('.aa-mega-menu');$megaMenu.css({"opacity": "1","visibility": "visible"});var $menuUnderLine = $($this).find('button > hr');$menuUnderLine.css({"opacity": "1","visibility": "visible"});//change header background with css transition class$('header#site-header-yellow').css('background', '#fff').addClass('bg-change');$('header#site-header-yellow').addClass('menu-base-transition');}applyMenuHoverOutEffects = function ($primaryNavElement) {$this = $primaryNavElement;var $megaMenu = $($this).find('.aa-mega-menu');if (window.aa.helpers.cache.cachedElements.$window.width() > mobileBreakpoint) {$megaMenu.css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});var $menuUnderLine = $($this).find('button > hr');$menuUnderLine.css({"opacity": "0","visibility": "hidden"});$('#mainContent').css({"visibility": "hidden",});}}$('header#site-header-yellow .main-nav ul.aa-main-nav > li').each(function () {if ($(this).find(".aa-mega-menu").length) {$(this).addClass('childrens')}});function 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300);$('.left.logo').animate({ width: 'hide' }, 300);$('.mobile-tablet-menu').animate({ width: 'hide' }, 0);if ($('.scroller').length) {$('#site-header-yellow').addClass('mobilemenu-active');}var primaryHeight = $('.main-nav').height() + 120;$('.main-nav').css('min-height', 'auto');const mobilemenuButton = document.querySelectorAll('.mobile-tablet-menu');mobilemenuButton[0].setAttribute('aria-expanded', 'true');const mobilemenuButtonOpen = document.querySelectorAll('.mobile-tablet-menu-open');mobilemenuButtonOpen[0].setAttribute('aria-expanded', 'true');$(".scroller").css("height", (Math.max(document.documentElement.clientHeight, window.innerHeight || 0) - $("#site-header-yellow").offset().top));$(" a").focus();});$('.mobile-tablet-menu-open').click(function (e) {// changes for CD-50114 startmobileCloseClick(e);// changes for CD-50114 end});var primaryItem = $('li.primary.childrens > button');var backlink = $('li.backLink > button');if 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    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (2)

    The lights on your car's dashboard light up when something's wrong. As a rule of thumb:

    • Red warning lights need immediate action.
    • Amber, orange or other colour lights often mean something needs checking by a garage.

    It’s normal to see some of these lights briefly while you start your engine. But if they stay lit up while you’re driving, then you'll need to look into it.

    This handy guide lists the most common dashboard lights our mechanics are asked about. Choose from the symbols below to find out what to do next:






    ABS brake


    If you can't see the one you're looking for, check your owner's manual as warning icons vary with each manufacturer. Or use our free app to search all warning lights by car make and light colour.

    Find out more about how breakdown cover can help you if you have car troubles in our breakdown cover guide.

    We provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

    Buy breakdown cover

    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (10)

    Engine management light

    Safe to drive?

    Yes – if it’s always lit and there's no loss of power. You should get it checked as soon as possible.

    No – if it's flashing while you're driving. Avoid heavy acceleration and high engine speed. Stop the vehicle when it's safe to do so. Restart the engine after 2 minutes to reset the engine management system. If the light's still flashing, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown.

    Next steps

    Get a garage to check the engine soon to avoid damaging the catalytic converter or diesel particulate filter.

    The problem

    Cars have lots of sensors to check if everything's running smoothly. If there's a problem, the sensor will tell the engine control unit (ECU) which will turn on the engine management light. There are many reasons why the light will show but a garage can check what the cause is.

    Learn more about engine management lights and what causes themto turn on.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (11)

    Battery warning light

    Safe to drive?

    No – if the battery light's red while you're driving, you need to have the fault looked at immediately as the battery isn't charging.

    Next steps

    Stop the vehicle in a safe place, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown. Don’t restart the engine as this could make the problem worse.

    The problem

    There may be a problem with the wiring, the alternator or the alternator drive belt.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (12)

    Oil pressure warning light

    Safe to drive?

    No – you need to stop and check your oil level. This light shows when there's no oil pressure in the engine.

    Next steps

    Stop as soon as you can and check the oil level, topping up as needed. Your owner's manual will tell you how. If the light still shows, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown.

    The problem

    If the warning light's on when the oil level's right, there's a problem with the oil supply. That could be caused by the oil pump or a blocked oil filter. Your car engine needs the right oil pressure to stay lubricated, otherwise it'll get damaged.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (13)

    Brake warning light

    Safe to drive?

    No – if you need to press your brake further than usual, your hydraulic brake circuits may have failed. Pull over and get help.

    Yes – if the brake fluid level's OK, it might just be a sensor fault. In that case, it's safe to drive to a garage.

    Next steps

    Check you've released the handbrake fully. If you have, stop, check the brake fluid level and top it up if you need to. Your owner's manual will tell you how.

    The problem

    Your vehicle may have a brake fluid leak, a sensor failure or need the brake pads replacing. Get it checked out at your local garage.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (14)

    Anti-lock braking system (ABS) warning light

    Safe to drive?

    Yes – for most vehicles, as long as there aren't any noises coming from the wheels. Check your handbook to be on the safe side. Take extra care when driving, especially during wet or icy weather, as your car's braking distances may increase.

    Next steps

    Get a garage to check the ABS system as soon as possible.

    The problem

    It could be as simple as a sensor fault but a garage will let you know what the issue is.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (15)Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (16)

    Brake system and ABS warning lights

    Safe to drive

    No – stop the vehicle and contact us to report your breakdown.

    Next steps

    Slow down gradually and avoid braking suddenly.

    The problem

    If your brake and ABS warning lights come on at the same time, there could be a major fault with the brakes. This is unsafe for you and other road users, so don’t drive the car until the problem has been looked at and fixed.


    Car dashboard warning lights and what they mean (17)

    Diesel particulate filter (DPF) warning light

    Safe to drive?

    Yes – but you should drive for around 10 minutes at over 40mph when safe.

    No – if the light doesn't disappear after continual driving. In that case, top the vehicle, turn off the engine and contact usto report your breakdown.

    Next steps

    Stop-start driving can cause the DPF to get blocked. To clear it, drive around for 10 minutes at over 40mph. Check your owner's manual for more specific advice.

    The problem

    The DPF traps tiny soot particles which are harmful to health, and converts them to harmless ash when the exhaust system gets hot. But this doesn't happen on short journeys. If the DPF is full, it'll need replacing, which can be expensive.


    Find out more:

    • Using jump leads

    Find out what your car's really saying

    Just plug our AA-Xdeviceinto your car to get updates about your car’s health sent to your phone.

    It helps you spot problems before they become a real issue and explains what to do about common warning lights.

    You can also learn what to do if you break down.

    Published:20 September 2016 | Updated: 6 January 2020 | Author: The AA

    Related links
    • Flat battery advice
    • How to check and top up your oil
    • Checking engine coolant
    • How to start a flooded engine
    • Top 10 breakdown causes
    • What to do if you break down
    • Head gasket guide
    • Why is my steering wheel shaking?
    • Why is my car heater not working?
    • How to change a flat tyre

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