We’ve seen it. We’d just be driving down the interstate, minding our own business, when a fearsome warning light would suddenly appear on our dashboard. Some bear recognizable shapes while others look totally alien.
But don’t worry—in most cases, you’re not in trouble. Yet. You do want to find out what the problem is, though, to avoid problems down the line. The best way to do that is to consult a technician, but to help you get started, here is a list of the most common vehicle warning lights.
Brake System – This can mean one of three things: brake fluid is low, the ABS has a problem, or the parking brake is on. If the parking brake isn’t on, take it easy on the brakes and drive more carefully to avoid situations where you may have to slam on them.
Battery/Charging Alert – Your battery’s voltage level is abnormally low. The battery terminals, alternator belt, or the general condition of the battery could each be at fault.
Check Engine Light – This one is difficult to pin down because of the sheer amount of things that can trigger it. Common reasons are faulty O2 sensors, a damaged catalytic converter, faulty spark plugs, or a loose gas cap, but the best thing to do is to ask a professional or use a code reader to find out what exactly the problem is.
Coolant Temperature Warning – The coolant temperature is too high. This is an emergency and you should pull over in a safe area immediately to let the engine cool down. Check the coolant level, radiator cap, and fans.
Oil Pressure Warning – Oil pressure is too low. Check oil level and pressure. You may very likely need an oil change—and sooner rather than later.