Can you understand what your car dashboard warning lights are telling you?

Mar 15, 2023 | News


The Flipit Team

Can you understand what your car dashboard warning lights are telling you?

You’re driving along, minding your own business, maybe singing along to the radio.

Then all of a sudden, your eye is caught by a red light that illuminates on your dashboard.

You’re only 4.7 miles away from home – what should you do? Should you pull over? Should you try to make it home and look into it then?

If you’re not sure what each of your dashboard warning lights means, it’s difficult to know how to respond.

In this article, we’re going to quickly run through some of the common warning lights you’re likely to come across in your car, what typically causes them to display, and what you should do if they illuminate when you’re driving.

Should you stop driving or not? The clue is often in the colour

Okay, so this is a bit of a generalisation – but it’s easy to remember.

As a rule of thumb, if you ever get a red dashboard warning light while you’re driving, this is an indication of a serious issue with your car that could be dangerous. The best thing to do is find the nearest safe place to pull over and get the issue looked at immediately. Don’t be tempted to keep on driving – even if you’re only a few miles from home.

If you get an amber warning light while you’re driving, this is more of an indication that something isn’t quite working as it should be. You’re more than likely safe to finish any short journey you’re making, but should get the issue looked at as soon as you can.

Some of the most common dashboard warning lights


Brake warning light

If your brake warning light illuminates while you’re driving, you’re going to want to avoid any harsh braking, slow down gradually, and pull over as soon as you can.

This light might indicate that your brake fluid levels are low, and need checking and topping up.

Or it could indicate there’s an issue with your brake system.

Alternatively, your fluid levels and brake system may be fine, and there’s just a faulty sensor.

But with your brakes being one of the most important safety features in your car, it’s not worth risking continuing to drive until you’ve had this checked out at a garage.





Engine temperature light

This dashboard warning light is a sign that your engine is getting hotter than it should.

It’s important to slow down and pull over as soon as you can, as continuing to drive with an overheating engine can result in severe engine damage that can be costly to fix.

While you’re looking for a safe place to pull over, consider turning up the heaters in the car to try and draw heat away from the engine.

There are a number of reasons why this warning light can appear – ranging from your coolant running too low, a faulty cooling fan or something more serious like an issue with your head gasket.

The first thing you’ll want to do is check your coolant levels – but it’s important to let your engine cool down before you do this.

If the issue isn’t with your coolant, you should call for breakdown recovery rather than risk driving with an overheating engine.


Oil pressure warning light

You’re likely to see this light illuminate on your dashboard if your engine oil pressure is too low.

It’s another one where you’ll want to pull over safely, as soon as you can.

The right oil pressure is important for the lubrication of your engine. Driving with low oil pressure can cause significant long-term damage to your engine, and expensive repairs.

The most common reason for this warning light coming on? Low oil levels, which can be easily fixed by topping up your engine oil.

But it could also be a sign of issues with your oil pump or oil filter.

So stop driving as soon as you can, and see if it’s an issue you can fix yourself by topping up your oil levels. If this doesn’t fix the issue, it’s best to get your car checked out by a professional.


Battery warning light

When this dashboard warning light illuminates, it indicates that you have an issue with your car battery or its charging system.

There are a range of potential culprits – it could be a faulty alternator which isn’t charging the battery efficiently, or sometimes it’s as simple as a loose connection or damaged cables.

Either way, your car battery is vital for its operation, and if this light comes on while you’re driving it’s best to pull over as soon as you can and call for recovery before getting it looked at in the garage.


Seatbelt warning light

This one is pretty straightforward. If this light comes on while you’re driving it indicates that someone might not be buckled in correctly.

Not wearing a seatbelt is illegal in the UK, and can face on-the-spot fines of up to £100. It can also lead to an increased risk of serious injury if you’re involved in an accident.

If this light comes on while you’re driving and it turns out that everyone is correctly strapped in, you may have an issue with a faulty sensor, which is something you should get checked out.





Engine management light

This dashboard warning light appears when your car detects that there might be an issue with your engine.

Your car has engine sensors which monitor that everything is running as it should be.

If a sensor picks up on a potential issue with your engine, it will trigger your engine management light and you may potentially experience a temporary loss of power if your car enters ‘limp mode’.

There are a variety of potential reasons why this light might illuminate, ranging from an issue with your vehicle emissions, a broken sensor or a more serious mechanical problem.

You’re generally safe to continue driving to your destination with your engine management light on, but doing so can potentially cause more damage to your engine if you do have a serious fault.

It’s worth getting it checked out professionally as soon as you can.


Tyre pressure light

Some cars are fitted with a tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

Maintaining the correct tyre pressure is really important for helping your car grip the surface of the road effectively, and can also help you with your fuel economy.

If your tyre pressure warning light comes on while you’re driving, it means your TPMS has noticed that the pressure in one of your tyres is too low.

The best course of action is to drive carefully to the nearest petrol station and check if you just need to inflate your tyres, or if there is a puncture that is causing you to lose pressure.




How to react if a red dashboard warning light comes on while you’re driving

Having a warning light appear on your dashboard while you’re driving can cause a sense of panic in even the most experienced of drivers.

If you’re faced with a red warning light while you’re in the car, it’s important to try and remain calm, drive slowly, put your hazards on, and find a safe place to pull over where you’re not disrupting the flow of traffic.

If you have breakdown cover, this is the time when those monthly premiums come to good use. Your breakdown company will typically be able to either fix your car at the roadside, or if it’s a more complex issue – have your car taken to the nearest garage for repair.

If you don’t have breakdown cover, it’s time to jump on your phone and try to find the nearest 24/7 recovery service, who will be able to transport your car to a garage of your choice.

Once your car is at the garage, a mechanic will be able to take a thorough look at your car, run a diagnostic check, and identify the issue.

Looking to sell your car rather than repair it?

If you’ve had a dashboard warning light appear while you’ve been driving, and the garage comes back with a higher repair bill than you were anticipating – you might be weighing up your options.

If you’re thinking it might be worth selling your car rather than spending the money to fix it – consider Flipit.

We buy any car, regardless of its age or condition.

Our hassle-free process makes selling your car a breeze, and we promise you a fair valuation.

Find out how much your car could be worth by entering your registration into our online tool.