What do my dashboard warning lights mean?

Lesson Type
Last updated: 12 Nov 2019

You’ve probably noticed all of the lights and symbols on your car dashboard but do you know what they mean?

Dashboard warning lights can tell you anything from whether your handbrake is still on to whether the car is overheating and has a mechanical problem. They are often the first indication that something is wrong with your vehicle, so it’s important that you know what they mean.

Don’t worry if you can’t find a particular warning light on your dashboard as older cars may not display every one. However, you'll want to know them all anyway for your theory test. Your driving instructor will introduce you to the dashboard warning lights in the car you're learning in.

It’s also worth noting that some warning lights are designed to light up when the ignition is turned on, but should turn off once you start your engine. Our guide looks at the most common warning lights and explains what to do in the event that any lights stay on or come on whilst you’re driving.

Brake system alert

This is one warning light which you will see often lit up on your dashboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with your braking system, as it will light up when your handbrake is applied. If the brake system alert light stays on once you’ve released the handbrake, however, it could be an indication of a low brake fluid level or a sensor fault. Check and top up your brake fluid level, and, if the light remains on, take it to a garage as soon as possible.


Oil pressure warning light

If you’re oil pressure warning light remains lit once your engine is running, it may be a sign that your oil levels are too low. If it stays illuminated or lights up whilst you’re driving, pull over and stop safely. Check the oil levels when the engine has cooled down, and top it up immediately if necessary. If the oil level is correct but the light is still illuminated, do not restart the engine and call assistance immediately.


Battery charge warning light

Like the oil pressure light, this light should only illuminate when the ignition is on but the engine is off. If it does not illuminate at all or stays illuminated when the engine is running, your battery is not being charged correctly. This could indicate an alternator failure, a slack battery or starter terminal or a loose or broken alternator drive belt. You should seek assistance immediately if your battery charge warning light indicates there is an issue.


Engine warning light

Again, this light will illuminate when the ignition is switched on. If it does not go out or if it lights up whilst driving, slow down and stop in a safe place. The engine warning light alerts the driver to a malfunction in the engine management system. Wait a couple of minutes and restart your engine as this may reset the system. Drivers are advised that it is safe to drive whilst your engine warning light is on, but that you should get it checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.


ABS warning light

The ABS warning light is there to indicate a problem in the Automatic Braking System. It may light up alone or with the Brake system alert, but, either way, you should reduce your speed gradually and pull over when it is safe to do so. Do not do any harsh braking and seek assistance immediately. Not all cars have ABS so don’t worry if you don’t have this warning light on your dashboard.


Temperature warning light

This light warns the driver if their vehicle is overheating. There could be a number of reasons for a car overheating, so you should stop the vehicle safely and seek immediate assistance to discover the root of the problem.


Rear fog light

This light does not indicate a problem with your fog lights, but it reminds the driver that they are on. This should be illuminated whilst your fog lights are on and should turn off as soon as you turn them off. dashboard warning lights


Low fuel notification

The low fuel notification light illuminates to warn the driver that they are running low on petrol or diesel, and to remind them to fill their tank up. If this lights up on your dashboard, drive to the nearest petrol station to ensure you’ve got enough fuel to complete your journey. dashboard warning lights


High beam light

Your high beam warning light is blue and should only be lit up when you’re using your high beam lights. This warning light is important because it reminds the driver to turn their lights off when seeing an oncoming vehicle.You should always be ready to turn your high beam lights on and off whilst driving at night, as keeping them on can dazzle other motorists. dashboard warning lights