Nesmith's Chevy Dealership Resources

Make Sense of Your Car's Dashboard Lights

Posted by Wynne Phillips on Jul 13, 2015 11:03:21 AM

Owning a car is an exciting adventure. But no matter which type of car you purchase, it is vital to become well acquainted with your car’s dashboard lights. While some cars (especially newer ones) may have unique symbols not widely known by others, most dashboards have standard lights that mean the same thing in every car, no matter the make or model.


A few decades ago, dashboard lights were not nearly as helpful and thorough as they are today, so we are lucky to have a method of quickly identifying a potential issue. Some of the lights that turn on may be a bit too vague for you to self-diagnose and these would simply be an indication that you need to take your car to a mechanic. Others are quick and easy fixes. We will discuss some of the common indicator lights and when you might need to worry and call for a tow truck (or drive it to the mechanic, if possible) immediately.


Engine Temperature Warning Light


What It Means: Your engine is overheating. This is one of the most serious issues that can arise with your car, as engine overheating destroys more engines than anything else (even oil and lubrication problems).

What to Do: Pull your car over to the side of the road as quickly as possible, but do NOT open the car hood for at least 20-30 minutes, as this gives your engine some time to cool down. If you are not able to pull over immediately, shut off your car’s A/C and radio to reduce the load on the engine. You should worry if there is smoke coming from your engine and pull over immediately. While you are waiting for the engine to cool down, it’s best to call a tow truck, as trying to continue to drive could only damage your engine further.


Tire Pressure Warning Light



What It Means: The pressure in one or more of your tires is too low and needs attention, otherwise you may have a flat or blown tire on your hands.

What To Do: You should worry if you are driving on a very hot day, as low tire pressure and high heat may contribute to a tire blowout which can be a dangerous situation on the road. If it’s not an extraordinarily hot day, do not panic. But it is best to pull over at the nearest gas station. Generally when the light first comes on, your tire pressure is not low enough that a flat is imminent, but attending to it quickly is ideal. Most gas stations have a machine that will allow you to add air to your tires. Simply fill it up to the appropriate level for your car. If the problem persists even after filling your tires with air, take the car to a mechanic.


Oil Pressure Warning 


What It Means: Either your engine is running low on oil or there is a possible problem with your car’s oil pressure system.

What to Do: Much like the Engine Temperature Warning Light, this light is a serious problem, as low oil for your engine can swiftly cause irreparable damage. If your car has not been running very long, pull over and check your oil levels, filling up if you have oil with you. If you do not have any oil with you, you should call a tow truck and take the car to a mechanic as continuing to drive with low oil could severely damage your car.


Check Engine Light


What It Means: This is a warning light that is a bit more vague, as there are a number of reasons this light may come on.

What to Do: You can take it to a mechanic or even a service like AutoZone where they can run a quick diagnostic check. Sometimes the check engine light may come on for a reason as minor as your gas cap being loose, or it could mean something else, like your spark plugs need to be replaced. A mechanic can then fix the problem from there. 


Battery Alert


What It Means: The car charging system is no longer working and your car is running solely on battery power. 

What to Do: As your car engine runs, it creates electricity that is used by the car and also stored in the battery. Your car’s alternator is driven by the engine, and if the alternator fails, then your car begins to run on the power that’s been stored in your battery. Your car obviously can’t run on this power indefinitely so you need to get to a mechanic quickly. While you are driving, it’s best to turn off your radio, A/C, and lights (if it’s safe to do so.)


There are, of course, many other lights on your dashboard and your car owner’s manual will also give you a detailed overview of what these lights mean and when you need to worry. Some are maintenance indicators while some are immediate emergencies that need to be attended to ASAP. Those listed above are the more common and worrisome indicator lights to come on. Properly maintaining your car with routine maintenance checks will also help to ensure your car is always in proper working order, and help to eliminate the frequency of warning lights coming on.

Contact us today for exceptional service to keep your car running smoothly.

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Topics: vehicles