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What Are Your Dashboard Lights Telling You?

BY: Keith Benline
Dashboard Warning Lights

Car repairs and other vehicle issues have a habit of popping up at the worst possible time. One moment you’re happily driving on the road, and then the next, your dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree. Your first instinct may be to panic when this happens, but it’s usually nothing to worry too much about. In fact, you can often quickly and easily resolve most issues with a little know-how (and with the help of a reliable vehicle protection plan).

But, if you experience any unusual dashboard warning lights that don’t go away, stopping in a safe place should always be first on your list. Next, it’s time to diagnose the problem, but there are so many different lights and symbols, so the chances are that you might not know what they all mean.

To help, you should always refer to your owner’s manual for a full breakdown, but if you can’t find it, learning more about the top 10 most common dashboard symbols you can find can help you stay one step ahead of potential issues. So whether you’re dealing with low oil pressure or airbag issues, here are the most important dashboard warning lights to know.

Dashboard Lights Explained

Stay ahead of potential car issues by knowing what 10 of the most common dashboard warning lights mean and what you should do if you encounter them.

1. Battery Charge Warning Light

This is a common one, especially when you haven’t been driving your vehicle for a while. The battery charge warning light indicates your car battery is below the normal voltage, meaning there’s an issue with your vehicle’s charging system.

Surprisingly enough, this might not be a problem with the battery itself. It could be down to a loose or damaged cable, but it may also result from a broken alternator drive belt. While a loose cable is easily reattached, a broken drive belt is a major problem that needs the attention of an expert. When this light turns on, your best bet is to pull over and call your local mechanic. If you’re an Endurance customer, you can even call your complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance for help directly from the Endurance Mobile app.

2. Oil Pressure Warning Light

The low oil pressure warning light can appear for a few different reasons—your oil may be too hot, its level is too low, or there isn’t enough pressure to keep it flowing. Either way, this is a warning light you should check into right away because, without proper lubrication, your engine can fail completely.

So if you happen to see your oil pressure light activate while driving, be sure to pull over in a safe spot, let the engine cool down (about 10-20 minutes), and then if you feel confident, pop the hood and try to get to the bottom of the issue. First, check your oil level, and if it’s low, try topping it off. You’re good to go if you do and the light disappears, as the engine will lubricate itself while you drive. If the light stays on, you’re going to need a professional.

You can also get help when changing your car’s engine oil and even filters while also getting comprehensive breakdown protection with Endurance’s Advantage auto protection plan. You can even save up to $3,500 on other essential maintenance services for your vehicle, including engine diagnostic exams, alignment checks and more.  

3. Engine Warning Light

Aka, the “check engine light,” this warning is one of the most important dashboard lights that can suddenly appear. And while it isn’t always an emergency, like having a loose gas cap, you’ll need to take this warning seriously. The engine warning light can be triggered by something as small as a faulty electrical sensor, or you simply need an oil change as its level is too low, but it can also indicate a much more serious issue. So while your car may seem fine when this first comes on, make sure you don’t ignore it if you want to avoid expensive automotive repairs.

Stop driving as soon as possible and arrange to take the vehicle to a repair shop. If the light is accompanied by other worrying signs such as smoke, smells, or clunking, it requires immediate attention, so stop driving as soon as you can and call an expert. If there is something wrong, the more you drive, the greater the chance of doing some serious damage to your vehicle, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Tire Pressure Warning Light

You should check your tire pressure (PSI) once a month, but sometimes life gets in the way. Leave it too long, and the air pressure in your tires may deflate to the point where the low tire pressure turns on your dashboard. In more extreme cases, you could have a puncture.

Driving on a flat or damaged tire won’t just make for a bumpy ride, but it can also damage your rims and suspension, so quickly get to a safe spot and check each tire for deflation. If there are no signs of a puncture and you have an air compressor in your trunk, bringing everything back up to the correct PSI will make the light disappear. If you find a puncture and have a spare tire, you can try to change it. Rather than sharp objects, some punctures can be caused by general wear and tear. Proper tire rotation can prevent this in the future.

You can also save on replacing or repairing two of your vehicle’s tires each year when you have your Endurance Elite Benefits activated. All you need to do is find the right Endurance plan for your needs and budget and then pay a $20 activation fee. Then you can enjoy your entire year’s worth of extra perks and savings like your tire replacements or repairs and others like key fob replacements, collision discounts, and even total loss protection.

5. Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) Warning Light

It goes without saying that working brakes are one of the most vital functions of any vehicle, so this warning light is a big deal. It means there’s an issue with your anti-lock braking system (ABS), like having low brake fluid due to a leak. So while ABS is designed to prevent your wheels from locking when you have to stop, having an ongoing issue could make you potentially lose control of your vehicle.

As always, you’ll need to find a safe place to stop when dealing with this warning light but do so with caution. If your brakes aren’t working properly, you’ll want to use them gently to gradually come to a halt. Once you’re safely out of the car, call a professional, and don’t drive again until they’ve given you the all-clear. 

There may be a chance you’ll need to replace your brake pads or shoes replaced, which could cost you—but not if you’re an Endurance customer. That’s because when you have the Advantage auto protection plan, you can get up to $140 towards your next brake pad/shoe replacement, along with other special, one-time services like a battery replacement, cooling system maintenance, a front or rear wiper blade set replacement and more.  

6. Engine Temperature Warning Light

Even though engines can withstand extreme heat, if your engine starts overheating, it can get so hot that it effectively welds itself together—a one-way ticket to total engine failure. This light can often indicate an issue with the level of coolant, which decreases naturally over time, but it may also be leaking.

If your A/C is on, switch it off and pull over. Once the engine is cool, pop the hood and check the coolant level. Try topping it off if it’s running low, and the light should leave you alone. If the level looks okay, there could be a bigger problem brewing. Driving with this light on is a no-go, so you’ll need to call an expert if you can’t sort it yourself.

7. Airbag Warning Light

If you’re in an accident, having working airbags can be the difference between severe injury and coming out relatively unscathed. To ensure you’re as protected as possible whenever you’re on the road, you’ll need every airbag in your car to be fully functioning. This light means there’s a problem, resulting in one of two potentially severe outcomes: either your airbag won’t go off in a crash, or it could go off unexpectedly and cause one. So, if you see this light turn, pull over and call a professional. Or, if you are able, you can look to drive your car to a mechanic immediately. Your safety is paramount, and a faulty airbag puts that at risk. 

When you have an Endurance protection plan, you’ll automatically have 24/7 roadside assistance to help you get to the nearest repair shop. If you’re away from home, trip interruption costs and even rental car reimbursements are also covered, so you can be certain your car can get the repairs it needs without cutting your trip short. You’ll even be able to save up to $500 per collision ($1,000 total) when you have a year’s worth of Elite Benefits activated.

8. Low Fuel Light

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re diligent about refilling your gas tank, you may have never seen it before. Have no fear, though, as a low fuel warning light just means you’re simply low on gas. You have an average of 30-50 miles left in the tank when this happens, though it’s best to re-check your owner’s manual to ensure you have enough fuel to get to the nearest pump. Let this run out completely, and you could cause damage to your engine.

If you carry gas with you, pull over and fill up. If that’s not an option, make a detour to the nearest gas station. It’s never a good idea to risk seeing how far you can make it before you run dry, especially when a string of red lights or heavy traffic could be waiting around the corner. Plus, driving on a near-empty tank can allow unwanted elements or air into the engine, which can cause damage.

9. Washer Fluid Light

This indicator light is another easy one as it shows that you lack washer fluid. Having nothing to clean your windshield can put you in a tough spot if you’re driving somewhere dusty or packed with bugs. Impaired visibility is a common cause of accidents on roads, so do something about it—it’s quick and simple to fix.

While visibility is important, this warning light most likely doesn’t need you to rush to pull over. Still, you should top off this fluid as soon as you can. Washer fluid is easily picked up from most gas stations or larger grocery stores and doesn’t cost too much either. Some popular retailers can do this for free, like Jiffy Lube.

10. Fog Light Indicator

At long last, a light that doesn’t indicate a problem! That’s because whenever you see this on your dashboard, your fog lights are switched to ‘on.’ 

If you’re driving in heavy fog, you’re fine to keep your fog lights running. If not, make sure to switch them off, as unnecessary use can affect other drivers’ view of the road.

Gain Peace of Mind with Reliable Auto Protection from Endurance

Whatever warning lights pop up on your car’s dashboard displays, having the right auto protection plan can help you feel confident that there’s nothing to worry about. When you have the comprehensive coverage of an Endurance auto protection plan, you can get the complete peace of mind you’re looking for when it comes to unexpected (and costly) repair bills.

In fact, you can even combine breakdown protection with up to $3,500 in maintenance coverage, including helping you with services like engine diagnostic exams, tire rotations, alignment checks and more with the Advantage plan. It even has unrivaled eligibility, including high mileage vehicles over 200,000 miles, Canadian Grey Market vehicles, and those with salvaged or rebuilt titles. Even vehicles used for rideshare and delivery services can get help, meaning whatever kind of car your own have, chances are you’ll be covered.

And whether you get Advantage or any other Endurance protection plan, you can drive with complete confidence, knowing that if the unfortunate happens, you’ve got instant access to 24/7 roadside assistance, substitute transportation, and trip interruption coverage. You’ll also be automatically eligible for one year’s worth of Elite Benefits, meaning you’ll enjoy even more everyday driver perks and savings, including up to two tire replacements or repairs, collision discounts, key fob replacements and total loss protection.

Find out more about how Endurance can help you avoid any bumps in the road by calling our award-winning customer service team at (800) 253-8203 or requesting a free, no-obligation quote today. And don’t forget to check out the Endurance blog to find other informative and helpful articles on a wide variety of automotive topics, including expert auto tips, DIY maintenance how-tos, road trip planning guides, extended warranty explanations and comparisons and much more.

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