What Do Your Dashboard Warning Lights Mean?
While many car dashboards are becoming spaceship wrap-around infotainment systems, the warning lights they display are rarely great entertainment – but they are informative.
But with so many possible warning lights these days, you can be forgiven for forgetting which one’s which. Here’s everything you need to know.
Colours of Dashboard Lights
The colour of a dashboard light indicates its importance. It’s crucial to note here that it’s normal for all the dashboard lights to turn on when you turn the car on – you only need to pay attention if they don’t turn off.
The three main colours are:
- Red: For things that need immediate attention and action. If a red dashboard light turns on, immediately stop to address it.
- Amber/Yellow: For things that need to be checked as soon as possible.
- Green: For things that are working correctly – so you don’t need to take any action.
Amber Warning Lights
Green Warning Lights
Blue Warning Lights
What Each Dashboard Light Means
Red Warning Lights
Battery Voltage Low
Indicates: If the battery voltage is reading as low, it could indicate a fault in the alternator, drive belt, or power cables.
Remedy: It’s a good idea to stop in a safe place and call for roadside assistance. When your battery dips below a certain point, a number of systems are likely to stop working – so you could be suddenly left without, lights, power steering, or ABS.
Boot Door Open
Indicates: That your car boot’s door isn’t shut properly. It may not be fully open but if it’s not fastened properly then it could be knocked open on a bump.
Remedy: Pull over in a safe place and check that it’s fully shut. If it is then you can continue – but we’d recommend you book an appointment to have the sensor checked.
Indicates: This appears when the airbag has been deactivated, either intentionally when fitting a rear-facing child seat or due to a fault.
Remedy: If this light is lit unintentionally, book an appointment at your local Kwik Fit as soon as possible to have your airbag system checked.
Car Key Battery Low
Indicates: This is more likely to appear in newer cars, but indicates that the car’s key fob battery is running extremely low. Which is something you’ll certainly want to avoid if you have a keyless ignition vehicle.
Remedy: Contact your local Kwik Fit to have the battery replaced or be advised on how to get the battery replaced.
Seatbelt Not Fastened
Indicates: That the driver or a passenger hasn’t fastened their seatbelt. This is activated when there’s weight on the seat and can sometimes be manually deactivated if it’s not actually a passenger.
Remedy: If a passenger isn’t wearing a seatbelt, you must stop the vehicle in a safe place until they have it suitably fastened. If this appears to be a fault, it’s important to have the seatbelts checked as soon as possible.
Indicates: The handbrake is applied while the engine is running. But if the light shows while the handbrake is actually off, then there could be a fault in the brake system or the brake fluid may need topping up.
Remedy: Check that the handbrake is fully off. If it’s jammed then you’ll need to call for roadside assistance.
Lane Assist Disabled
Indicates: With modern cars that have ADAS installed, lane assist helps you stay in the correct lane without drifting – perfect for long drives on the motorway. If this is disabled without you wanting it to be, then there could be a fault with the sensors.
Remedy: It’s important to have this seen urgently, while Lane Assist on its own isn’t a particularly important ADAS feature, faulty sensors could create trouble in other areas.
Indicates: If the engine has overheated, it’s almost always to do with a lack of coolant or a problem in the coolant system. Though this can also happen with some older vehicles in excessively hot weather.
Remedy: Continuing to drive with an overheated engine is likely to cause very costly, sometimes irreparable damage. So always stop in a safe place as soon as this light shows and wait for it to cool down. Contact your local Kwik Fit for a coolant assessment.
Indicates: You’d likely be aware if the bonnet is actually open while you’re driving, but this light indicates that, much like the Boot light, it’s not fastened properly – which in turn could cause it to fully open while you’re driving.
Remedy: Stop in a safe place and make sure it’s fully closed. If there’s a fault with the latch mechanism so that it won’t shut properly, the safest option is to call for roadside assistance.
Approaching Car or Object Ahead
Indicates: Unless this light is orange – which indicates that the sensor is on and working – this indicates that you’re getting too close to the car (or any object) ahead.
Remedy: Many ADAS systems will automatically slow down your car to avoid a collision – but if this light shows then manually do so regardless. If the light continues to show, without any object ahead, then take your car to your local Kwik Fit centre for sensor diagnostics.
Check Engine Oil
Indicates: A problem with either too little or too much engine oil in the reservoir. Too much oil can mean that parts are over-lubricated and don’t move as efficiently – whereas too little oil will make parts wear and overheat.
Parking Brake Engaged
Indicates: That the handbrake on your automatic car is engaged. This is usually a button that you can press, but is also occasionally a hand-activated cable brake in older vehicles. This should always be engaged when the car is parked.
Remedy: If the parking brake won’t disengage, then call for roadside assistance – usually towing to be fixed at a local garage.
Indicates: That one of the side doors is open. Much like the bonnet or boot lights, this most usually means that a door isn’t shut properly. Often, this will cause a beeper to start if you begin to drive.
Remedy: Stop in a safe place and make sure all the doors are fully closed. If they are but the warning light continues, book an appointment to have the sensors checked.
Power Steering Failure
Indicates: You’ll likely feel this before you see it. When the power steering fails, the car becomes extremely sluggish to steer. You can still move the car and steer, but manoeuvring while stationary becomes difficult.
Remedy: If you can steer well enough, head to a garage as soon as you can. Otherwise, pull over to a safe place and call for roadside assistance.
Amber Warning Lights
Indicates: A problem with the powertrain whereby your engine is still running but with less power.
Remedy: Take your car to the garage for this one. When driving there, try not to accelerate or brake too hard to avoid damaging your engine.
Indicates: If this light appears during wet weather or on uneven terrain, it is a good thing. It means that the system is working well. It may turn on and off slightly or flash, but this just alerts you that you are on slippery roads.
You only need to worry when it turns on during good driving conditions or does not come on at all. If it flashes in good weather, the system may be beginning to deteriorate (as caused by faulty wheel sensors). If it remains on in good weather without blinking, the system may have been deactivated.
Remedy: If this light does not flash when you start your car, you need to have your car checked at the garage.
Battery Range Low
Indicates: If this light shows, you can assume that your battery is running out of range. Note: This warning light is only found in electric cars.
Remedy: Use a GPS to look for the nearest EV charging point to charge the battery. Should charging not solve the issue, there could be an undiagnosed fault so it’s wise to take your car into the garage.
You can find out more about the inner workings of electric car batteries here.
Rear Window Heating On
Indicates: If this light shows, it means that your heated rear window is on. This usually happens when you are demisting the back window on cold days.
Remedy: Simply turn off the rear window heating to make the light go out. If the light remains on, or doesn’t come on even when you are heating the rear window, something may be wrong and a technician will have to have a look.
Indicates: An issue with your ABS (Anti Lock Braking System). This can be dangerous if not addressed soon.
Remedy: Though your brakes will still work if this light shows, it is not a good idea to drive without a working ABS system, especially during wintry weather as ABS helps prevent you from skidding and losing control of the car as a result of wheel locking when braking on icy terrain.
Automatic Windscreen Wipers On
Indicates: You have the windscreen wipers turned on to automatically clear the screen as it is raining outside. Note: This light isn’t present in all cars, but is usually in most newer vehicles.
Remedy: Simply turn off the automatic wiper setting. If the light doesn’t go away, there may be a fault, so bring your car into a Kwik Fit centre near you for us to take a look.
Automatic Start-Stop: Engine Off
Indicates: This light shows when you are stationary and your engine is off but your car is still on such as when you stop at traffic lights. Usually, when you have turned the key just once to make the lights on the dash and other internal features illuminate, but not enough to kick the engine into action.
Remedy: Your car should restart again as soon as you press the clutch or accelerator and the light will disappear. This is only really a system present in newer cars with start-stop engines.
Tyre Pressure Low
Indicates: When this light shows, the pressure in your tyres has dropped to a level that is too low. Since 2014, it has been mandatory for new cars to be fitted with Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) to indicate this for driver safety. There are multiple hazards associated with continuing to drive on under-inflated tyres.
Remedy: It is advised that you re-inflate your tyres at a petrol station or at a KwikFit centre. But, before you do so, it is wise to check what your tyre pressure is supposed to be. Note: There is a difference in the recommended tyre pressure between summer tyres and winter tyres. You can find out more on our tyre pressure page.
Hill Start Assistance
Indicates: When this light is showing, your vehicle’s Hill Start Assist System is switched on and is functioning. This is used to help you control your car when starting it on a steep slope. In some vehicles, this system comes on automatically. In others, you have to press a button to activate this system manually.
This system uses ABS to help control your braking as you navigate hills, so if your ABS light is showing orange (indicating it is not working) it is unlikely that the Hill Start Assist System will work to its full capacity either.
Remedy: If this light does not show — either automatically or manually — the hill descent control is likely not working and you should bring your vehicle to your local Kwik Fit centre so that we can diagnose the underlying problem.
Fuel Level Low
Indicates: As suggested by the name, this light will show orange when you are running low on fuel. When this light illuminates, there may also be an auditory sound. When your fuel light comes on, and your tank gauge falls into the red, you typically have between 20 to 30 miles remaining to get to a petrol station. In some cars, though, there can be as much as 50 miles left. Though, you should never ‘run on fumes’ for too long as this risks you being stranded without fuel.
Remedy: Find a nearby petrol station (using signs or GPS if you have one) and refuel. If you’ve just refuelled, then there could be a leak in the tank or a problem with the level meter.
Fuel System Malfunction
Indicates: When this light shows orange, it is indicating to you that you need to empty your fuel filter. Inside this filter is a sensor that tracks the amount of water collected — this light comes on when the water level detected is reaching its maximum.
In some cars, there is a valve at the bottom of the filter that releases water once it builds up. If the light is showing in this instance, it can be a sign that the valve has stopped working or the drain in the filter is blocked and cannot empty itself.
Remedy: Do not ignore this light as the water in the filter may begin to leak into the engine over time. Instead, bring your vehicle to a garage or nearby Kwik Fit centre where they can drain it for you.
Outside Temperature Low
Indicates: This light shows when the outside temperature is colder than 4 degrees celsius. It functions as a reminder to drivers to drive carefully as the roads may be slippy. Some modern cars also show an automatic notification that “Roads may be icy!”
Remedy: Adjust your driving style accordingly: don’t brake suddenly, leave room between you and the car in front, and keep a safe speed. Read another of our blogs for more wintry weather driving tips.
Blind Spot Monitor Disabled
Indicates: The blind spot monitor has been turned off.
Remedy: All you have to do to remove this light is turn the blind spot monitor again. We’d recommend leaving the monitor on as drivers can use all the help they can get when it comes to blind spots.
Indicates: As the name suggests, this light alerts drivers to an issue with your car’s electronics. This is not to be ignored as your car will either stop completely or be functionally less usable.
Remedy: You should contact road assistance immediately if your car stops. Or, if you catch it in time, bring your car to your nearest Kwik Fit centre where we can diagnose the issue.
Indicates: Similarly to the ‘Cold’ symbol, this light shows when there is a risk of slipperiness.
Remedy: As stated above, simply drive with extra caution as there may well be black ice, sheets of ice, or even heavy snow — all conditions that increase the risk of accidents by lengthening stopping distances.
Headlight Height Adjustment
Indicates: When this light illuminates, you may want to lower or raise your headlights. Sometimes, if your car is heavily loaded, it is advisable to adjust the height of your headlight to reduce the risk of dazzling other road users and causing accidents.
Remedy: You set your headlights downwards to make this light go off. Learn how on another of our blogs here.
Indicates: That the car has been turned off by the start/stop system. Note: This light will only show on cars with this system.
Remedy: When you press down on the clutch, this light will go out and the car will start again.
Lamp or Rain Sensor Malfunction
Indicates: If this orange light shows, there may be an issue with the automatic systems for your car’s lights and windscreen wipers. If this is the case, the sensors that tell the windscreen wipers when it's raining — and the lights when it's dark — have stopped working.
Remedy: It’s best to leave this one to the experts and bring your car into a Kwik Fit centre so we can do it for you.
Air Filter Dirty
Indicates: This light will show when your air cabin filter (also known as the pollen filter) is dirty or clogged. If your air filter is not working properly, the engine may not receive an optimal air supply – which is dangerous as it can cause loss of power or even damage to your car.
Remedy: It is wise to replace the pollen filter as soon as possible. If you don’t know how to do this by yourself, bring your car into your nearest Kwik Fit centre and we can help.
Air Suspension Malfunction
Indicates: There is a probable failure in the air suspension. Air suspension replaces (or supplements) the springs in a vehicle with air pockets that can adjust how high the car is and how firmly it drives.
Remedy: If your air suspension is malfunctioning, you should drive to your nearest garage or Kwik Fit centre to get this repaired. It is best to leave this to expert technicians as it can be quite a complicated task.
Rear Fog Lights On
Indicates: That your rear fog lights are switched on. Drivers are only supposed to do this if the visibility is less than 50 metres — not just when it is raining.
Remedy: Simply switch the fog lights off again as soon as it is no longer foggy.
Indicates: That one of your bulbs has blown or is malfunctioning. It could be anyone of a number of lights but if it turns out to be a headlight or brake light, its important to fix asap to maintain a clear view of the road and so other motorists can see you.
Remedy: Check around the vehicle to see if you can ascertain which bulb is causing the problem. Visit your nearest Kwik Fit who can provide a replacement bulb and fit this for you, plus check the others are operating correctly.
Indicates: There is a problem with the engine management or with the electronics. If the engine malfunction symbol is blinking it may indicate a number of different issues such as an engine misfire. More information about the check engine light.
Remedy: Immediately check the level of the engine oil and coolant. Seek assistance from a vehicle technician asap who can run a diagnostics check on the vehicle to determine the cause of the issue.
Emergency Run Active
Indicates: Appears when your car goes into 'limp mode' allowing you to crawl at a slow pace without putting strain on the vehicle until you can reach safety. As soon as your car goes into limp mode, this light will flash to indicate a loss of power and to tell you your car can no longer be driven at full capacity.
Remedy: You may have to contact roadside assistance if your car does not make it home. Or, book an appointment with Kwik Fit to diagnose and solve the issue.
Parking Sensors Enabled
Indicates: Whenever the parking sensors are activated, this light will be on. These are the sensors located on the edges of most modern cars that make your car sound a ‘beeping’ noise to help you gauge how close you are to objects around you. For most people, this light may stay on all the time as they usually keep their parking sensors on to help them park safely and easily.
Remedy: This light will disappear if you turn off your parking sensors.
Rain Sensor Active
Indicates: When the rain sensor is working. You can set the sensitivity of this sensor yourself by pressing the button with water drops on your windshield wiper.
These sensors register how wet your windshield gets and sends an appropriate signal to a control unit programmed to activate the windscreen wipers. As such, when it rains, your wipers will turn on automatically.
Remedy: This light will turn off whenever you switch off your rain sensor.
Worn Brake Pads
Indicates: That your brake pads are worn down to a dangerous point. New brake pads are 10mm thick. As a general rule of thumb, your brake pads should be changed before they reach 3mm. Though, some people choose to leave them until they reach 1.5mm.
Remedy: Contact Kwik Fit who can help you replace your brake pads and get you back on the road safely.
Brake Light Malfunction
Indicates: That your brake lights are not working as they should due to a malfunction. This suggests one or both of your brake lights need to be replaced.
Remedy: You can replace them yourself or have it done at a KwikFit location near you. It is essential that you do this as, without them, it is much harder for other drivers to register that your speed is slowing. As a result, drivers behind you are much more likely to rear-end your vehicle.
Diesel Particulate Filter Failure
Indicates: This light shows when your car's diesel particulate filter, or DPF, is clogged or broken. As the name suggests, these particulate filters are only present in diesel models. If you see this light on your dashboard, this filter may have failed. As such, your car may no longer meet the environmental requirements which can land you with a hefty fine! Find out more about particulate filters here.
Remedy: If you continue to drive while this light stays on, your filter or engine may be damaged. So, you should have the car checked at a garage or Kwik Fit centre as soon as possible.
Washer Fluid Level Low
Indicates: That your windscreen washer fluid has not been topped up for some time and the fluid is almost empty.
Remedy: Trying to use windscreen wipers on a completely dry windscreen may cause damage. So, refill the windshield washer fluid and this light will go out again.
Shock Absorber/Suspension Malfunction
Indicates: If this light shows, it is a sign that there is a fault in the suspension or shock absorbers of your vehicle.
Remedy: This is quite a complicated problem to fix and the parts that may need altering or replacing are specialist. So, if this light shows, go to a garage as soon as possible.
Key Is Missing
Indicates: Some vehicles have keyless entry systems (or keyless drive systems). If this light flashes, it means that the car is on but cannot detect the key. You can still run the car even if the key is missing.
Remedy: A bit of detective work to find the key will soon turn this light out.
Speed Limiter Activated
Indicates: That the speed limiter has been activated meaning a maximum speed has been set for your car on its journey. Speed limiters are common features in new cars and can help keep drivers and other road users safe and sensible. Unlike cruise control, speed limiters don’t maintain set speeds. Instead, the driver can still accelerate or brake. But, if the limited speed is reached, accelerating will have no effect.
Remedy: When the speed limiter is switched off, this light will stop showing.
Parking Heater Switched On
Indicates: That you have switched on the parking heater. This is a luxurious feature that allows you to warm up the car before setting off.
Remedy: The light will turn off when you also turn off the parking heater.
Indicates: On diesel vehicles, this symbol indicates that the glow plugs are in use and are preheating the engine. This light will show when your engine is still cold but you have partially turned the key. Wait a few seconds for preheating to occur before fully starting the car. This only usually occurs when it is really cold outside. As such, preheating is not necessary if the outside temperature is above 8°C. Regardless, it is a good idea to leave a few seconds between key turns so your car has time to start up gradually.
Remedy: Has the preheating light suddenly come on while you’re driving? If so, then there is probably a malfunction. Bring your car to your local Kwik Fit for an inspection if this is the case.
Windscreen Defroster Active
Indicates: When the windscreen defroster is turned on and blowing, the light will be on. This mainly happens when the windscreen is fogged up.
Remedy: This light will disappear when you are finished defrosting the windscreen and turn the defroster off.
Water In Fuel
Indicates: When there is (too much) water in the fuel filter, this light will alert you.
Remedy: If there is water in your fuel, you should have your car checked as soon as possible, especially if this light stays on or comes on while you are driving as this could indicate that the fuel filter may contain too much water and needs to be replaced.
Green Warning Lights
Adaptive Cruise Control Enabled
Indicates: A white light pops up on your dashboard when adaptive cruise control is switched on. A green light, on the other hand, indicates that the system is activated.
Remedy: The light will go out again when you turn off the cruise control.
Cruise Control Engaged
Indicates: That you have engaged the cruise control. Many cars have cruise control, allowing them to drive more comfortably at a constant speed.
Remedy: Cruise control only stops when you press the brake or accelerator pedal again. The cruise control light will also go out when you do this.
Dipped Beam Turned On
Indicates: This light on your dash will show when you turn your dipped beam headlights on. According to the highway code, you "You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced.” By 'seriously reduced', they mean when you can only see less than 100m in front of you. So, you should turn on your headlights when it is dark and during really poor weather.
Remedy: Turn off your dipped headlights and the light will disappear.
Depress or 'Hold' Brake Pedal
Indicates: In some modern automatic cars, you only have to press the brake once for the brake to work and ‘hold’ until you accelerate again. This means that drivers no longer have to continuously press their brake pedals when they are standing still. To activate this, there is usually a ‘hold’ button — pressing this will make the light show.
Remedy: Simply turn off the ‘hold’ button and the light will vanish.
Indicators Turned On
Indicates: Ironically, this light indicates when you are indicating left or right. This light blinks left or right when turned on, depending on which direction you are indicating. When you use the hazard lights, both lights flash.
Remedy: This light will stop showing when you cancel your signal or turn off your hazard lights when it is safe to do so.
Side Lights Turned On
Indicates: In some cars, these side lights, or city lights, turn on automatically and are used during the day. In other cars, there is usually a switch near to the steering wheel that allows you to turn these on manually.
Remedy: In some cars, these ‘side’ lights turn on automatically and are used during the day. In other cars, there is usually a switch near to the steering wheel that allows you to turn these on manually.
Blue Warning Lights
High Beam Turned On
Indicates: That your full or high beam lights are currently turned on. On dark roads, when you have no oncoming traffic or other cars in front of you, it can be very helpful to switch this high beam on to see. Why? Because the high beam shines much further than the dipped beam and therefore illuminates the road better.
However, for oncoming traffic, a high beam can be dazzling and dangerous, so you have to switch it off when you see oncoming traffic.
Remedy: Always keep an eye on this light on the dash so that you don’t meet other road users in the dark after having left your high beams on. When the high beams are switched off, this light will turn off too.
Keep an eye out for dashboard lights
Now that we’ve taken you through a number of the possible signals that could appear on your dashboard at any given time, we hope that you understand the importance of these lights.
So, when you're driving or preparing for a road trip, pay close attention to what the dashboard is telling you. If you have any further questions about the lights on your dash — or any possible issues with your car, get in touch with the experts at Kwik Fit today.
In the meantime, keep up with the latest motoring information over on our blog.