I have often found myself in some lonely parking lot or at the side of the road, squinting at a warped and sun-faded owner’s manual to try and figure out what my car was trying to tell me. The mere sight of my dashboard illuminating with another unintelligible wingding filled me with dread. My dad called them idiot lights, and considering my reaction to them, that seemed fair.
But in reality, there’s no reason to be so anxious about dashboard light meanings. They are just the way that the car communicates with the driver. Though many of the lights are merely notifications, warning lights in particular can deliver important information about vehicle maintenance. Paying attention to these lights and knowing what they mean can help you get more good years out of your car, and keep it running as tight as a drum.
One of the difficulties that come with deciphering dashboard light meanings is that symbols vary between different makes and models. Though the variation is often very slight, it is important to keep in mind that the symbols in your own car might look a little different.
There are basically three grades of dashboard lights: Green/Blue, Yellow/Orange, and Red.
Green or blue lights are notification lights, telling you that a feature of your car is active. They do not signal a fault or problem.
Yellow or orange lights are low-grade warning lights. There is a problem in your car that you should deal with in the very near future.
Red lights are serious warning lights. You should stop immediately, or risk damage to the car (or worse, yourself). If you are out driving when you see a red warning light, pull over and deal with the problem. If it requires attention from a professional, don’t drive down the block to get one. It could wind up damaging your vehicle further and costing you a small fortune. Contact a roadside assistance service like AAA instead.
Some dashboard displays have lights that blink when the driver’s attention is especially urgent, though this is not the case for all vehicles.
For additional auto services, automotive expertise and more, visit AAA.com/Automotive.