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Deciphering a dashboard


WE'VE all had it at some point, a mysterious light illuminated in the dashboard of our car. These warning lights range from trivial tyre pressure checks to potential engine failure warnings. I have compiled a list of some of the more common warning signs and what they mean for you as a driver.

Triangle warning light -This light is normally accompanied by another light and is used as a general warning that notifies the driver that there is something wrong with the vehicle that needs to be addressed urgently.



Airbag warning light - This light comes on when, either there’s a problem with the airbag, a faulty sensor, or perhaps the clock spring is in need of replacing. This light will also illuminate if you have disabled the passenger side airbag to accommodate a child seat.


Engine warning light -This, generally speaking, is not a pleasant light to have illuminated on your dashboard. It could mean that you need new spark plugs, need to check your O2 sensor or Mass Airflow (MAF sensor) or even that your catalytic converter in your exhaust needs replacing.


Oil warning light - Despite looking like the genie from Aladdin, about to grant you three wishes, sadly this is not the case. This light normally means that the oil level in your car is slow, which can lead to engine failure. It could also spell another problem, such as oil pressure issues.


 Tyre pressure warning light - This odd light that resembles the bottom of a cold drink bottle with an exclamation mark inside is actually a tyre pressure warning light. This means that the vehicle’s tyre pressure sensors have detected a pressure imbalance in one or more of your tyres, which requires you to attend to it immediately.


Cold weather/icy road warning - This light will rarely come on in South Africa however, it does still pop up sometimes. When you see the snowflake illuminated on your dashboard don’t think there’s snow on the way or that your car is cold. Rather remember that the vehicle has used its thermometer to determine that the temperature outside is conducive to the formation of black ice on the road, which can be dangerous.


Traction control light - Nope, this isn’t the drifting light but rather an indication of when the vehicle’s Electronic Stability or Traction Control systems have to be deployed to stop you from potentially losing control. The light usually flashes when activated and remains on when you switch the system off.


ABS warning light -This has nothing to do with gym, crunches or core strength but rather to do with your braking system. This light will illuminate when your anti-lock braking system has a problem that needs to be fixed immediately.


Engine temperature light -You’ll notice some cars will have this light illuminated blue when you first start the vehicle. This means that the engine is cold and needs to be warmed up to prevent wear. If this light is red it means that the engine is overheating and that you should stop the vehicle immediately.


Article written by Sean Nurse
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