Explainer: What your dashboard is telling you about your car

APRIL 20, 2016

The number of warning lights on a dashboard can be vexing and tough to decipher. But it’s important to know what these lights represent in order to quickly pick up potential car troubles and react accordingly. Here’s a simple guide to educate yourself about dashboard warning lights and what they mean, from the experts at Battery Centre:

Engine warning

This light indicates an issue with your engine. It will often appear if there’s a lack of power or if the car stutters when you accelerate. The issue can be minor – like a sensor cable replacement – but could also be a larger and more costly problem. Don’t ignore the light as this could lead to irreparable damage. Get professional assistance as soon as possible.

 

Battery charge warning

It’s normal to see this light when you switch your car on, but if it doesn’t disappear after a few seconds there could be a problem with your battery, alternator or it could indicate damaged cables linked to the engine. Head to your nearest Battery Centre to have your alternator belt, battery terminals and the overall battery condition checked by the experts.

 

Oil warning

When oil temperatures get too high or oil levels and pressure drop too low, you might see this light pop up on your dashboard. Oil keeps the engine nicely greased so it can function fully. When this functioning is compromised or completely lost, it can mean engine damage that’s expensive to fix. Top up the oil level as soon as possible when you see this light.

 

Brake and ABS warning

The brake light can indicate that the hand brake is up, brake fluid is low or there’s an issue with the braking system. When it lights up in conjunction with the Anti-braking System (ABS) warning light, this indicates an ABS system fault. It’s best to bring your speed right down, try not to push the brake pedal too hard and get it checked out by a certified mechanic immediately.

 

Coolant warning

Coolant levels are an indication of the vehicle temperature and could mean the engine is overheating – a sign of head gasket failure (major problem) or a minor issue like a leak somewhere in the system. Check coolant levels in the coolant tank under the bonnet, and top up if necessary. The radiator cap and operation of the fan should also be checked when you see this light.

 

Airbag fault indicator

When this light is on, it’s an indication that there’s a fault with your vehicle’s airbag – and that’s something you don’t want to mess around with. Get professional assistance immediately to repair the issue.

 

Power steering warning

When this light is illuminated it means there’s an issue with the power steering system. When the system fails, the steering wheel becomes heavy and stiff, making it difficult to change the car’s direction. At a low speed, this is mildly annoying but when you’re on the highway or trying to change lanes to avoid an obstacle, it’s very dangerous.

 

Security alert

If this light is visible after you’ve switched the vehicle on, it typically indicates a malfunction with the security system. This could pose a risk if your car gets broken into so it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible.

 

Cruise control

When this light is illuminated it indicates that cruise control is set at a specific speed during driving. Hitting the brakes or switching your car off will reset the controls and turn off the light and you’ll be able to control the car’s speed manually.

 

Traction control or ESP

This light will usually switch on when the road is slippery – it indicates that the electronic stability system is in use. It’s best to slow down and drive cautiously when this light pops up.

 

Disclaimer: Colour of warning lights may differ from vehicle to vehicle. Seek professional assistance sooner rather than later if you’re concerned about possible car troubles. For all you need to know about car batteries and to find your nearest Battery Centre, visit www.batterycentre.co.za .