Car Dashboard Symbols [Guide]

We already discussed automobile lights and how to properly utilize them. But there are various sorts of automobile lights that will illuminate in case of a malfunction or breakdown.

Although each automobile is unique and each manufacturer has its own methods, there is a lot of agreement on the instrument panel light indications. That’s why we wanted to look at the indications.

When one of these glowing signals appears on the dashboard, be cool and pay attention. The first step is to recognize the light’s hue since the amount of danger varies. Red alerts are the most severe, and the vehicle must be halted immediately and help contacted.

Yellow or amber lights do not need urgent immobilization, but it is prudent to stop and contact an expert. It may become crimson otherwise.

Other hues like blue, green, or white are only instructive; they don’t indicate a problem, but rather that a system or light is in operation.

How Many Symbols Are On Vehicle Dashboards?

There is no absolute or general answer. The year of manufacture of the vehicle must be taken into account; whether it is diesel, gasoline, hybrid or electric; and the more modern it is, the more innovations it will have, so it will be accompanied by more telltales. To get an idea, a modern car may have about a hundred telltales.

What Do The Colors On The Car Dashboard Mean?

Red:

The red lights indicate that the anomaly is serious, and we must stop the vehicle (always safely) as soon as possible. We must then call for assistance.

Yellow:

The yellow or amber lights indicate a failure in some systems. It is also advisable to stop and ask for the help of a professional.

Other Colors:

The lights that are neither red nor amber (green, blue, white, etc.), are giving us information about the vehicle, but it is not a malfunction and, therefore, we do not have to stop the vehicle.

Car Dashboard Symbols

Braking system

Braking system
  • If the brake fluid level is low, it will most likely light up.
  • If it comes on while driving, check the brake pedal: if it has lost a lot of fluid or one of the two circuits has emptied, you may have to press hard on the brakes to stop the car and it may swerve to one side when you try to brake in a straight line.
  • If the systems that use the brakes, such as Hill Holder (hill start assist) or BAS emergency brake assist, malfunction, this warning lamp will come on.

Hand Brake

Hand Brake

When the parking brake is engaged, this indicator lights up. It may be the exclamation point icon or another icon with the letter “P”, depending on the model. If the light comes on while driving, make sure the parking brake is firmly depressed.

Another important factor may be a lack of brake fluid. If this occurs, be careful when stopping the vehicle as the pedal feel may be different and the brakes may not be consistent. Another amber warning light with brackets and nothing inside shows that the brake pads are worn.

Brake Pads

Brake Pads

This witness differs from the first two in the amber color, in that there is nothing written inside it and in that the parentheses are discontinuous lines. 

It comes on when one of the brake pads has worn out and the small conductor inside has started to make contact with the disc. Automatically shuts off when replacing pads.

ABS

ABS

This warning lamp indicates that the anti-lock braking system is malfunctioning.

  • The symbol for the stability control, which cannot function without ABS, also lights up.
  • In addition, the electronic brake force distribution and electronic differential lock functions are switched off. The ABS warning lamp does not flash when the system intervenes, unlike when ESP intervenes.
  • One of the sensors that measures wheel spin is usually faulty.

Oil pressure

Oil pressure

The low oil pressure warning light, red in color, alerts us to stop the vehicle as soon as possible, but safely, to continue with the critical malfunction warning lights.

The best method to avoid causing major damage to the engine is to turn it off as soon as possible, as leaving it running (even at idle) can cause major damage and costly repairs. It is best to contact the appropriate service center.

Coolant Temperature

Coolant Temperature

When the coolant temperature is higher than it should be, this light will come on. If the coolant level is low or there is no coolant, it will come on. In certain circumstances, it may be sufficient to stop and let the engine cool down, although it is better to be cautious to avoid serious malfunctions.

Alternator Failure

Alternator Failure
  • If it lights up while the engine is running, it means that the alternator, which is responsible for charging the battery and supplying electrical power to all the car’s components, is not producing enough voltage.
  • Even if you are driving, the battery is completely drained, which is not dangerous. You will not be able to restart the engine after you have stopped it. The alternator may stop working if it has been “touched” too much.

Power Steering

Power Steering

This indicates a problem with the electronic steering assist system, which can range from minor inconsistencies to complete disconnection of the system. It is possible to drive without power steering, but it is not recommended: not only because the transmission will be difficult to use, but also because operating in reverse could damage the transmission system.

Airbag

Airbag

When this light illuminates, it means that one of the airbags is malfunctioning. Each airbag used to have its own light in earlier cars. This is not always a bad thing; in certain cases, it is preferable to have the passenger airbag deactivated (for example, while using a child restraint system), and the light will illuminate. It is a good idea to double-check the connections.

Seat Belt

Seat Belt

This light does not indicate a malfunction but indicates that a passenger is not wearing a seat belt. When the car a) exceeds 25 km/h, b) has traveled 500 meters, or c) has been traveling for more than 60 seconds, it comes on with an audible warning. After five minutes, the audible warning is turned off, but the warning light remains on. The manufacturer can provide instructions on how to deactivate this system.

Auto Switch

When an automated gearbox or an all-wheel-drive system with a locking gearbox or differentials fails, this indicator is frequently shown. When the gearbox fails, an “emergency” mode is normally engaged, with just three gears working.

Particulate Filter

Particulate Filter

This warning light is only found on the instruments of diesel engine vehicles.

It is regulated by the pressure difference before and after the particulate filter, which informs the driver that he must drive in a certain way to clean it (high speeds and low gears).

Ignoring it can be costly: if the filter becomes too clogged with carbon, it will have to be replaced.

Emissions Anomaly

Emissions Anomaly

In certain cases, when aberrant engine-related metrics are detected, this amber signal will be displayed. There may be a problem with the injection system, ignition, or exhaust gases. If it flashes, the engine may have been put into emergency mode to prevent further damage. In any case, it is a good idea to stop and see if the light goes out after a while. If the problem continues, you should seek expert help.

ESC

ESC

A vehicle’s stability or traction control system activates when it detects slippery conditions. Allow your vehicle to regain traction by reducing speed.

Engine Preheating

Engine Preheating

This indicator light in the form of a resistor warns us of engine preheating. It may come on when the ignition is switched on and in this case, we must wait for it to go out before starting the engine. During the march, if it begins to blink it could indicate a failure in the control of the motor and it would be advisable to stop immediately.

Tire Pressure

Tire Pressure

In recent years, this warning light has become mandatory on automobiles. It is used to show when one of the tires has incorrect pressure. In this case, it is necessary to stop, identify the problematic tire and inflate it to the pressure suggested by the manufacturer. The mechanism must be readjusted once all four tires are at the proper pressure.

Fuel Level

Fuel level

It is normally engaged when the range goes below 80 kilometers or if the automobile consumes a lot when the remaining fuel level falls below 1/4 tank. In most cases, the side of the automobile where the filler cap is positioned corresponds to the side on which the hose is marked on the pictogram. In addition, an arrow next to the fuel gauge pictogram generally indicates this.

Defective Bulb

Defective bulb

Many cars include a warning light that indicates when a bulb has blown. In some circumstances, it will identify which light is damaged, while in others it will be essential to examine it the old-fashioned way: by looking at the vehicle from the outside.

Stop/Start not available

Stop/Start not available

When the driver voluntarily deactivates the system that stops the engine when the vehicle is stationary, or when the system cannot operate, it appears on the instruments. When the engine has not yet reached operating temperature or the air conditioning has been set to a very low temperature, this is what happens.

Lane Change Assistant

Lane Change Assistant

More and more models come with Lane Departure Warning. The LDW (Lane Departure Warning) is normally orange and turns green when the automobile detects the lines on the road.

If we change lanes without utilizing the turn signal, we may hear an audio alarm, or the steering wheel may vibrate. It will also attempt to keep us in our lane.

Liam

Hi, I'm the initiator and writer of this blog. Cars were and will be my first love, and my favorite hobby, that's why I decided to start this blog and write about my discoveries and techniques to improve my cars or repair them.