What Does This Light Mean?: A Guide to Dashboard Warning Lights

Today's vehicles are full of sensors and electronics that monitor the status of your car, truck, or SUV. They are in place to make maintenance of your vehicle easier on you and remind you of when certain milestones are reached (i.e., when it's time for an oil change).


However, when problems occur, it can be a challenge to determine exactly what the problem is. What is that flashing light on your dashboard trying to convey? You don't have to know all the ins and outs of your vehicle, but you should be able to determine what your dashboard lights mean. If nothing else, knowing what they mean can prevent engine failure or an expensive repair.


Below is a list of some of the more common warning lights you may see on your dashboard. Take the time to learn what each one means, so you know which ones to give preference to:


Power Steering

If the power steering warning light in your vehicle comes on, it means there is probably something wrong with your steering system. Not given the proper attention, your steering will become difficult, requiring more effort to change your vehicle's direction. At low speeds, this might be a minor annoyance, but on the highway, you're running a very high risk of not being able to avoid obstacles or other vehicles.



If you see your airbag warning light on your dashboard, you want to get it looked at immediately. A malfunctioning airbag means it won't deploy in a crash, which can result in severe injuries for you and your passengers. On the flip side, your airbag could go off when you don't expect it to, which can cause an accident or even an unintended injury.


Tire Pressure

Sensors that monitor tire pressure are now standard for the vast majority of vehicles today. It determines whether your tire pressure is at a level it should be, and warns you if it isn't. When it's not, you'll see an indicator on your monitor letting you know that you need to air up your tire. This could be beneficial if you've punctured your tire and didn't realize it.


Battery Indicator

You'll see your battery light come on when you start up your car, but if it doesn't go away after a moment or two, you may have a problem with your battery or electrical system. This could be due to a variety of things like your battery, alternator, or fuses. You'll want to get this checked out as soon as possible, as you could be losing power to essential parts of your vehicle, like the coolant pump or power steering.


Coolant Light

When your coolant indicator pops up on our dashboard, more than likely your antifreeze levels are low. You might also notice your temperature gauge running into the red, which is a sure sign that your engine is overheating. Take your vehicle to a mechanic so they can determine the cause of the problem and get it fixed. You could have a leak somewhere, which could lead to a costly bill if not addressed immediately.


Braking Indicator

If you see a brake indicator pop up on your dashboard, you'll probably want to get that checked out. Your brakes are perhaps the most important feature of your vehicle, and a problem may be occurring with the ABS system which could lead to further issues if not taken care of.


Oil Light

Your oil warning light will show up on your dashboard when your oil temperature gets too high, or the oil pressure or oil levels are low. Oil is your engine's lubrication, and the pump is used to push oil to all parts of the engine. If the pressure gets too low, the lubrication doesn't get distributed, and you can wind up with some very serious, expensive problems.


Engine Warning Indicator

When you see your engine light come on, you'll probably see a variety of problems. Your vehicle may have a lack of power, intermittent stuttering, or some other abnormal behavior. Sometimes the answer is simple and easy to fix, but there is always the potential for a more significant problem. When your engine light comes on, take it to a mechanic so the issues can be addressed by a professional.


Dashboard Lights

It's important that no matter which warning light you see on your dashboard, that you inspect your vehicle immediately. If it's an issue you aren't familiar with, take it to a mechanic and let them figure it out. You never know when a small problem could turn into a much larger one.


Keeping your vehicle maintained and serviced regularly will help prevent your indicators from lighting up your dashboard. But no car is perfect, so keep an eye out for dashboard lights, and be sure to get them taken care of immediately. Check out Southwest Motors in Pueblo for your next certified used car.


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