12 Car Warning Lights And What They Mean [As Of 2023 ]

Picture this: You’re driving down the road, enjoying the scenic views, when suddenly, one of the symbols on your dashboard lights up. You’re wondering what’s wrong with your car. Maybe even panic since you don’t know what to do.


Fortunately, many car dashboard warning lights are easy to figure out. But whether you own or rent the vehicle you’re using, knowing what these car warning lights mean will significantly help if you need to pull over and seek roadside assistance.

The good news is that only some symbols that light up on your dashboard are a cause for concern. Some lights have nothing to do with issues in your vehicle and more to do with its features.


For example, in modern cars with cruise control, you’ll often spot a symbol that looks like a gauge with an arrow pointing to it.


Colours also play an important role in your dashboard warning lights. Blue or green lets you know that a function has been turned on or is operating.


Be on the lookout for orange or yellow lights, which means you must bring your vehicle to an auto servicing centre soon.


Finally, a flashing or red warning light means you need to take immediate action. A typical instance is when your seat belt light is turned on. In more severe cases, red warning lights mean something is wrong with the car’s engine or components.


When this happens, the best course of action is to pull up on the side of the road and try to figure out what’s happening. Continuing to drive may further endanger you and your vehicle.


While there are many car warning lights similar in all vehicle makes and models, no two vehicles are the same.


Some warning lights in a car may appear different from others. Other warning lights appear only for a few moments, then turn off once you’ve started your engine.


When in doubt, always remember to consult the vehicle owner’s manual. Nevertheless, we’ll discuss these common car warning lights and what they mean for your vehicle.

car dashboard symbols

1. Check Engine Light


Arguably one of the more dreadful dashboard warning lights, the check engine light means a malfunction in your vehicle’s exhaust systems, fuel, ignition, or emissions.


A check engine light may turn on because of a loose gas cap, faulty oxygen sensor or spark plug. In severe cases, something may be wrong with your catalytic converter.


Check engine lights usually appear in a yellow or orange outline, with the words “Service Engine”, “Maint Req’d”, or “Check” right next to it. It’s normal to appear once you start the engine, but it should disappear immediately.


If it doesn’t go away or continues to flash, stop driving immediately. Call for roadside assistance (if you’re on a major thoroughfare) and have your car brought to a nearby auto shop.


2. Tire Pressure Warning Light


The tire pressure warning light is known as the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). It simply means that one or more of your vehicle’s tire pressure is too high or low.


But it’s also common for car owners to experience a turned-on tire pressure warning light even if they have correctly inflated their wheels. In this case, there’s something wrong with the monitoring system, and it’s best to have it checked.


3. Engine Temperature Warning Light


Also referred to as the coolant temperature warning light, this symbol will turn on if your car’s engine overheats. Coolant levels may have depleted due to a leak or a head gasket failure.


Stop driving as soon as this warning light turns on. Operating on low coolant levels can overheat your engine past the point of repair.


If you’re on the road, try turning off your A/C. Turn on the heater, which allows the engine to transfer the heat to the passenger side. If this doesn’t work, find a safe area to pull over and turn off your engine.


Let the engine cool for about 15 to 30 minutes. Under no circumstances should you pop the hood, especially if you’re untrained in diagnosing the vehicle. Doing this could cause burns or injuries due to the heat.


Contact roadside assistance or your local auto servicing shop as the car cools down. They may be able to help bring your car for further inspection.


4. Battery Alert Light


car battery

Can’t start your car? There’s likely a problem with its charging system or battery. A loose or damaged battery cable, electrical fault, or damaged alternator may be causing the battery charge warning light to turn on.


If you can still run your car even with this light on, try to get to a servicing shop as soon as possible. Turn off all unnecessary accessories like the infotainment system, A/C unit, etc., to avoid using up all the battery juice.


5. Seat Belt Light


As straightforward as it gets, this car warning light reminds you or a passenger to fasten your seatbelts.


This light is often accompanied by a repeated warning sound that won’t go off until all or the driver’s seat safety belt has been fastened.


6. Security Indicator Light


If you have a car with an anti-theft system, this car warning light will repeatedly blink, indicating the security system is armed.


If the security indicator light remains solid and unblinking, the vehicle has activated its immobilisation system, likely due to a security malfunction or threat.


Meanwhile, if this light remains on even if your car is running smoothly, you may need to bring your vehicle to an auto shop to check if there are issues with the security system.


7. Brake Warning Light


car brake

The brake warning light symbol appears as an exclamation mark enclosed in a circle. Most car owners have their brake warning lights on simply because the parking brake is still engaged.


But in some cases, this light could also indicate an issue with the braking system. To rule out all other possible issues, check your parking brake. While in park, release the brake—this should cause the light to turn off.


If it hasn’t turned off, drive your car carefully to the nearest servicing centre as soon as possible. This could mean your brake or lever/pedal needs to be adjusted. Or, these components have worn down and need replacement.


8. Low Fuel Indicator Light


Car drivers know all too well what this dashboard warning light means. Your car is simply running low on fuel. While you still may be able to run the car, it’s already using up the reserve fuel source.


When you’re on the road, and you spot this light, don’t try pushing your luck, especially when stuck in traffic. Instead, drop by the nearest gas station to fill your car with gas.


9. Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) Warning Light


vehicle anti lock braking system

When driving on wet roads, you might tend to brake too hard. This causes the ABS warning light to pulse, signalling that the ABS has engaged to prevent the wheels from locking.


But if the ABS light stays on, something might be wrong with your engine. The levels in the car’s fluid reservoir may be lower than intended. This is dangerous as it means you won’t be able to brake your vehicle properly.


A turned-on ABS light may also indicate your wheel speed sensors need to be fixed. Have these checked because they’re important in regulating the speed of your vehicle’s wheels.


10. Airbag Warning Light


This warning light means an issue with one of the car’s airbags or the entire system. When this happens, the airbags won’t be able to inflate properly during a collision.


Airbag failure is a severe safety concern and must be immediately assessed by a professional. Though it’s not alarming, especially when you’re driving only short distances, bringing in your car for an airbag check is your safest bet.


11. Service Engine Soon Warning Light


Depending on your car’s make and model, this light has several meanings. In most cases, the service engine light will turn on to indicate minor issues with the engine.


Other instances are more straightforward—when this is on, it’s simply telling you to bring your car to a shop for servicing.


If you encounter a lit-up service engine light, inspect different components in the engine bay, such as:


  • Oil level
  • Brake fluid level
  • Washer level
  • Transmission fluid level


You must also check if all the other lights in your car are working. If everything seems in order, you’re advised to find out when you last serviced your vehicle. It may be due for another routine service.


You can bring your car to our Sin Ming servicing centre here at Kee Yong Auto. We offer car servicing packages in Singapore, which include:


  • Engine oil servicing
  • Vehicle check servicing
  • Microfilter servicing
  • Fuel filter servicing (for diesel engines)
  • Transmission oil servicing
  • Transmission filter servicing
  • Routine maintenance inspections


12. Fog Lamp Indicator Light


car fog lamp indicator

Your car’s fog lamp indicator light will come on simply if the fog lights have been turned on. These lights are generally situated below the vehicle’s headlights.


Their purpose is to reduce the level of light reflection on the driver, especially under low-visibility conditions like heavy rainfall or fog.


Use your fog lights only under the conditions mentioned above. Unnecessarily turning them on could blind other drivers on the road.

With so many car warning lights on your dashboard, figuring out what each one means can get overwhelming, even more so if you’re not necessarily a professional.


But ultimately, understanding these warning lights and what they tell about your vehicle is paramount to driver safety. Not only will you be keeping yourself safe on the road, but you’ll also be making it even safer for other drivers.


Are you experiencing issues with your car warning lights? Contact Kee Yong Auto now. We’re a Sin Ming car workshop offering a range of car servicing packages for Jaguar, BMW, Land Rover, Porsche, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz, and other models.

What Is The Most Serious Car Dashboard Warning Light?

Car drivers fear the check engine light, as it signals multiple issues with the vehicle. It could lead to severe damage without early intervention.

What Does The Traction Control Light Mean?

This light usually means your car can maintain ample traction on slippery roads and surfaces. But it could also indicate a problem with some wires or sensors.

What Does The Oil Warning Light Mean?

When this light is on, the engine oil pressure levels have dropped below the intended. Have your vehicle inspected by a professional as soon as possible to prevent further engine damage.

What Does The Power Steering System Light Mean?

This light tells you that your power steering system has experienced a mechanical failure and warrants an inspection. Low fluid levels are often the culprit, particularly in cars with hydraulic power steering systems.