Interpret Your Car’S Warning Lights

Warning lights can only have one meaning in most cases. But manufacturing costs sometimes force car designers to combine several signals in a single indicator.


1. Read your owner’s manual until you completely understand each warning light and plan a response for each warning light. That way, it’s easier to remain calm and cool in an engine emergency.

2. Turn off the car when the “engine” light comes on. Expect an oil pressure loss, since both oil pressure and water temperature are often combined in the “engine” warning.

3. Respond quickly to a “check engine” or “power loss” light. Although this self-diagnostic system does not signal an emergency, it does indicate a problem with the computerized engine controls and drivers should consult a mechanic.

4. Remember the “brake” warning light usually means the parking brake is on. But it can also indicate low brake fluid, dual brake system failure or the braking system power assist has failed.

5. Don’t ignore an “alternator” or “charging system” light. Since they check only for alternator voltage, they could mean a loose drive belt.

6. Act on a “trunk” light. Left unchecked, it causes a constant load on the battery.

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