The dashboard, more specifically the instrument panel, lets drivers know what's going on with their vehicle. Of course, you have to understand what the different parts, colours and indicators mean.
A yellow warning light, message or icon is important and requires your attention; however, anything in red signals an emergency and you should take your car to a dealer or repair shop -- maybe even turn off the engine -- as soon as possible. An accompanying audible alert or flashing icon can also determine the severity of the situation.
Different levels of information
The level of information displayed on the dashboard varies from one vehicle to the next. More modern, upscale models often have a digital screen that tells you all you need to know, including maintenance reminders. Most of the time, an illuminated icon gives a good enough idea of the problem encountered. Refer to your owner's manual if necessary.
Let's take a closer look...
This indicator often lights up in yellow, and can be caused by different problems. You don't have to stop your car right away; however, you shouldn't waste time taking it to service to have it plugged into an OBD2 scanner that will read the trouble code and give you the answer you are looking for.
The indicator for the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) lights up to let you know that one of your tires is not properly inflated. More advanced vehicles can even tell you which one exactly; otherwise, you'll have to check all four. If the colour is red instead of yellow, the lack of air pressure inside the tire poses an immediate danger.
If your engine oil pressure is too low, you must visit your dealership or repair shop for an inspection. This problem could significantly damage the engine if you don't take necessary actions.
Overheating can be extremely damaging. If this icon ever lights up (in red, as a blue version generally indicates your engine is still cold and not at the ideal temperature yet), your car's cooling system is most likely to blame and needs serious attention. Have it inspected as soon as possible and, in the meantime, try to limit your commutes.
After a few years, a battery's capacity to hold its charge diminishes, which is why you may see this icon appear on your dashboard at some point. It could also signal a problem with the alternator, which charges the battery whenever the engine is running. Your best move is to ask a technician to check your battery as soon as possible, especially during the cold winter months.
Brake or ABS:
The “Brake” icon with the exclamation mark often means that your parking brake is still engaged, or that it may be time to inspect the components of the braking system. Meanwhile, the “ABS” icon signals trouble with the antilock braking system. In fact, it usually means that the ABS function is disabled, leaving you with only your standard braking system.
It's important to pay attention to all the signals and messages your car is trying to send you. Of course, quickly performing the necessary checks and repair work is equally vital, not only for your car's long-term health, but also for your own personal safety.