When you look down at your dashboard, that small blinking light could mean something as trivial as a faulty sensor, but it could also be a warning of something far more serious that – if left unchecked – could cost you dearly.
Read on for 10 common warning signals, and suggested ways to mitigate the risk.
1. Oil Warning Light
- What it means: Either the engine oil’s temperature is too high, or its level and / or pressure are too low.
- What you should do: Pull over safely to check your oil level. If the engine level is below minimum, top up your oil. The danger is that the lubrication in your vehicle’s engine can become ineffective, or lost all together, resulting in great expense. If not, visit your mechanic to get your engine flushed.
2. ECU (Engine Warning Light)
- What it means: A significant mechanical issue has been detected.
- What you should do: Consult your mechanic as failure to remedy this warning light could cause irreparable damage.
3. Coolant Warning Light
- What it means: Engine temperature has exceeded normal limits.
- What you should do: Bearing in mind that the engine coolant will still very likely be hot, safely check your coolant levels once the engine has cooled down. If it is below the minimum level, top it up with coolant or water, for a temporary fix and get your car booked in with the mechanic as soon as possible. Click here to find out about how to check and add coolant to your vehicle.
4. Battery Charge Warning Light
- What it means: Voltage level is below normal and the vehicle's charging system is malfunctioning.
- What you should do: Locate the battery, the fuse box and the alternator and check for corrosion on the battery terminals and any damage to the battery. Damages to the battery includes cracks in the battery casing, or indications of dripping or bubbling liquid. Should any of these occur, the battery may need to be replaced.
5. Airbag Warning Light
- What it means: A sensor connected to the airbag system may have malfunctioned.
- What you should do: Visit your mechanic to have it fixed immediately because a faulty airbag may fail to engage if an accident was to occur (or it could even deploy when you least expect it).
6. Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
- What it means: At least one of your car’s tires is running low on pressure or it could indicate a punctured tire.
- What you should do: Visit your nearest petrol station for a pressure check and very quickly you’ll be able to tell which tire is low. If you proceed to top up your tires and the warning light remains, it could indicate a punctured tire. Should the issue persist, head down to your mechanic to have the problem investigated.
- What it means: Either the parking brake has been left on, the braking system is damaged, brake fluid is low, or the anti-lock braking system (ABS) has an issue.
- What you should do: Check if your parking brake is fully released. If it’s not engaged and the light remains on, check the brake fluid. If the problem persists, it may be time to consult your mechanic.
8. Low Fuel Level Warning
- What it means: Your vehicle is running very low on fuel.
- What you should do: Find a petrol station as soon as possible to refuel your vehicle as this light is typically triggered when there is just 8 to 10 liters left in the tank. The direction of the nozzle indicates which side the refuel tank is located.
9. Open Door Warning Light
- What it means: One of your car’s doors, trunk or hood may not be fully closed.
- What you should do: Pull over and make sure that all doors, the hood and the trunk are securely closed.
10. Lamp Out
- What it means: An exterior light on the vehicle has malfunctioned.
- What you should do: Visit your mechanic to have the lamp replaced as soon as possible.
While there is some similarity across manufacturers, not all warning lights are universal so always refer to your owner's manual to ensure you and your vehicle are both driving on the same page.