Today's vehicles are loaded with electronic systems. Gone are the days of just an engine, oil, and temperature light. Now there are indicator and warning lights for every system on the car, not to mention all the driver safety systems and driving assist systems. Just a google search for automotive warning lights will show hundreds of different indicator/warning lights. We have compiled a list of the most common lights that you may see on the dash of your vehicle in order to better help you understand what they all mean. Please note that these are not all of the warning lights used by every manufacturer, but a generic list. Some of these lights may not be quite the same in your vehicle, but similar warning lights would indicate similar issues with the vehicle.
Indicates that the vehicle requires maintenance or service. The check engine light could be activated from multiple sensors in multiple vehicle systems. An automotive scan tool is required to determine exactly what sensors are indicating a problem.
Specific to BMW, this light indicates that service or maintenance is required, similar to a check engine light in other vehicles, and could be activated by multiple sensors on multiple vehicle systems.
Indicates that the vehicle requires maintenance service such as oil change, tire rotation, coolant flush, etc. Some vehicles show only a wrench.
Indicates that the vehicle has detected multiple issues with the vehicle. Usually the master light will be accompanied by one or more other warning lights indicating multiple issues.
Indicates that the engine has been put into a low/reduced power mode or limp mode. The vehicle ECU has detected critical faults with the engine and has reduced performance to protect the engine from damage and requires immediate service. Even though the power has been reduced, damage could still occur to the engine and it should not be driven unless absolutely necessary.
Depending on vehicle, indicates that the engine oil level is low or degraded and needs to be changed.
Depending on vehicle, indicates that either it is time for an oil change, or that the vehicle has detected that the engine oil has degraded and requires replacement.
Indicates that the vehicle battery has low charge or is not charging properly. This could be caused by a bad or weak battery, loose battery terminals, or malfunctioning alternator.
A red engine temp light indicates that the engine is running too hot and there is likely a problem with the engine cooling system, while a blue engine temp light indicates that the engine is too cool to operate at peak performance and efficiency.
Typically only seen on Mercedes, the fan light indicates a malfunction with the engine cooling fan.
Indicates a problem with the vehicle's power steering hydraulic sytem.
Indicates that the brake fluid level is low, fluid pressure is too low, or that the fluid has degraded and requires change.
Brake Pad Indicator
Indicates that the brake pads are worn and need to be changed.
Indicates a malfunction with the vehicle's Anti-Lock Braking system which prevents the wheels from locking under hard braking.
Electronic Stability Program Fault
Indicates a malfunction in the vehicle's traction control and/or ABS braking system. The traction control system maintains stability while accelerating while the ABS maintains stability while braking.
Indicates there is a malfunction with the vehicle's pneumatic suspension system.
Depending on the vehicle, this indicates that there is a malfunction with the automatic transmission, or that the automatic transmission requires service.
Indicates that there is a malfunction in the vehicle's powertrain or that the powertrain requires service. Transmission, axles, transfer case, differentials are all components of the powertrain. On some vehicle's this may indicate that service required on the vehicle in gerneral, not just the powertrain.
Indicates that the transmission fluid temperature is too hot. If this light comes on the vehicle needs to be serviced immediately. If the transmission gets too hot it will suffer over wear and significantly reduce the life of the transmission. The vehicle should not be driven in this condition.
Indicates either low tire pressure, or a malfunction with the vehicle's tire pressure monitoring system.
Indicates that the engine air filter is clogged or dirty and requires change or cleaning.
Indicates that the fuel filler cap is not on, or it was not fastened securely.
Informs the driver that the fuel level is low.
Indicates a problem with the vehicle's catalytic converter or oxygen sensors. The catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system and chemically reduces toxic emissions. The converter may become clogged and overheat over time. The oxygen sensors measure the exhaust gasses to ensure the vehicle runs as efficiently as possible. Problems with these components will reduce fuel economy and performance.
Informs the driver that there is a general information warning. Depending on the vehicle make this could indicate different things. Typically it indicates a non-critical warning such as: maintenance reminders, software updates, recalls, etc.
AdBlue Tank Malfunction
AdBlue is an additive to reduce emissions in disel vehicles, this indicates the AdBlue tank has malfunctioned.
AdBlue Tank Empty
AdBlue is an additive to reduce emissions in diesel vehicles, this indicates the AdBlue tank is empty.
Indicates a problem with a diesel vehicle's exhaust fluid system. Diesel engines use an exhaust fluid which catylizes in the exhaust system.
Fuel Filter Warning
Diesel vehicles only. Indicates that the fuel filter is nearly full of water and needs to be emptied and/or replaced.
Water Fluid Filter
Diesel vehicles only. Indicates that the fuel water/fluid filter needs to be emptied or replaced.
Diesel vehicles only. May come on solid when the engine is cold to indicate that the glow plugs are heating up to temperature prior to starting engine. If the light is blinking, the vehicle ECU has detected a problem with the glow plugs or diesel starting system.
Indicates that there is a malfunction with the airbag or supplemental restraint system (seat belts). It is very important to have the airbag system checked if this light is coming on. If this light is activated, in the event of an impact, the airbags will not deploy.
Indicates that the side airbag is disabled. It may be normal if no one is sitting in passenger seats, however if someone is sitting in the seat then all airbags should be active. Airbag warning lights should be taken seriously as faults in the airbag system will prevent airbag deployment in the event of a crash.
Indicates that a passenger airbag is deactivated, and is usually activated/deactivated by weight sensors in the seats.
Indicates either a problem with the smark key or key fob, or it may indicate a problem with the vehicle anti-theft system.
Steering Wheel Lock
Indicates that the vehicle's steering wheel is locked and requires the key to unlock the steering. This is an automatic theft deterent system on all modern vehicles, however, usually only European cars are equipped with this indicator light.
Ignition Switch Warning
Depending on vehicle, indicates that there is a problem with the ignition switch, or that there is a malfunction with the vehicle's smart key.
Indicates a malfunction with the vehicle's start/stop system. The start/stop system is an eco-friendly system which stops the engine during idle to save fuel, and restarts the engine as soon as throttle is applied.
Key Fob Battery
Indicates that the detected key fob has a low battery and requires replacement.
Key Not Detected
Indicates that the smart key or key fob is not detected by the vehicle's anti-theft system.
Depending on vehicle, indicates either that the tow hitch is unlocked, or, more commonly, that their is an electrical issue with the trailer wiring.
Child Safety Lock
Indicates that the vehicle's child safety locks are activated or deativated. The passenger doors can only be opened from the outside when activated.
Indicates that one of the doors is not properly secured. If remains on when all doors secured may indicate a failed switch.
Indicates that the hood/bonnet is open. If remains on when secured may indicate a failed switch.
Indicates that the vehicle's convertible top is not secured either in up or down position. If indicator remains on when top is secured may be caused by a failed switch.
Rear Spoiler Warning
Depending on vehicle, indicates a malfunction with either the rear spoiler itself, or indicates a malfunction of the active aerodynamics system if equipped.
Indicates a malfunction with the vehicle's rain/light sensor. The rain/light sensor may also be a camera built in with lane departure/keep assist systems, and may show other indicators if there is a fault with the rain/light sensor.
Indicates that the hazard flashers are activated.
Exterior Light Fault
Indicates that an exterior light bulb or circuit has malfunctioned. Usually only found on European cars.
Similar to exterior light fault on European cars, this light is typically found on American or Japanese cars. Simply indicates that an exterior bulb or circuit has malfunctioned.
Headlight Range Control
Typically only seen on Audi, Volkswagen, and BMW. Indicates a problem with the automatic headlight range control, which is a system that detects the angle of the car and automatically adjusts the headlights to remain level while driving.
Brake Light Warning
Indicates that the vehicle has detected that a brake light bulb is not working properly.
Indicates that the low-beam headlights are active.
Indicates that the vehicle high-beam headlights are active.
Indicates direction of activated turn signal left or right.
Indicates that fog lights are activated.
Rear Fog Light
Indicates that rear fog light is active. Rear fog lights are a single red light, usually on rear bumper cover, of European cars and help other drivers to see the vehicle in fog, heavy rain, and snow. Rear fog lights are mandatory in Europe and are installed on all European vehicles. Most euro imports to the U.S. will have a rear fog light.
Side Light Indicator
Indicates that the side marker lights are activated, usually controlled automatically by light sensor and activated as day-time running lights.
Indicates that the vehicle's adaptive headlights are active, meaning the headlights will automatically level and turn the direction the vehicle is turned.
Automatic High-Beam Control
Indicates that the vehicle's automatic high-beam control is active. The vehicle uses a camera to detect lights from oncoming traffic and automatically switches between high and low beam.
Automatic Windshield Wipers
Indicates that the vehicle's automatic windshield wipers are active. The system uses a camera to detect water droplets on windshield and automatically switches on and controls the intermittence of the wipers.
Automatic Braking Control
Indicates that the vehicle's automated braking/collision avoidance system is active. When active the vehicle will automatically brake if the vehicle directly in front brakes or if an object is detected in front of the vehicle.
Indicates that the vehicle's adaptive suspension is active, meaning the vehicle will automatically detect road conditions and adust the suspension stiffness. Adaptive suspension systems vary by vehicle. In some vehicles the the system can adjust all wheels together, or front and back, or all wheels independently of each other. The suspension settings are dependent on driver control settings: comfort, sport, race, track. The default setting is always to comfort setting.
Indicates that the vehicle's speed cruise control system is active.
Adaptive Cruise Control
Indicates that the vehicle's adaptive cruise control is active, meaning the vehicle will keep pace with the vehicle directly in front.
Adaptive Cruise Control Speed Limiter
Indicates that the speed limiter on adaptive cruise control is on. Prevents the car from accelerating above a set speed when using adaptive cruise control to follow vehicle directly in front.
Indicates that there is a vehicle or object in the driver's blindspot. These indicators are usually located in the sideview mirrors. The vehicle uses radar to identify vehicles in the blindspots.
Indicates close proximity to an object typically when parking to warn drivers to avoid collision with the object(s). Uses radar or potentially lidar to identify objects.
Forward Collision Avoidance
Indicates to the driver that the forward collision avoidance system has activated to prevent a collision.
Lane Departure Warning
Indicates to the driver that the lane keep assist system has detected the vehicle is veering out of the traffic lane. Usually an audible tone is heard as well.
Lane Keep Assist
Indicates that the lane keep assist system is activated. While on, the system will attempt to keep steering the car inside the current traffic lane.
Indicates that the vehicle's parking assist system is active.
Fasten Seat Belt Warning
Indicates to the driver that seatbelts need to be fastened. The driver seat is determined by the car being in drive gear while the passenger seats are determined by weight sensors.
Indicates that the engine is configured to run at maximum efficiency. The engine will get the best possible fuel economy at the expense of power.
Indicates that the vehicle is locked into 4X4 drive.
Indicates that the vehicle is in All-Wheel Drive mode. Power is distributed to all four wheels.
Hill Descent Control
Depending on vehicle; indicates that the hill descent system is active, or it may indicate a fault with the hill descent system. HDC is usually only installed on offroad trucks and SUVs. The hill descent system is an additional function of the electronic stability program including TCS and ABS systems.
Indicates to the driver that the vehicle's traction control system as detected loss of grip, and is adjusting power distribution to the wheels in order to keep the vehicle stable and is part of the electronic stability program (ESP).
Traction Control Off
Indicates to the driver that the traction control system has been disabled by the driver. Traction control is on by default as a safety system, but there is a button located on the dash to disable in certain situations like getting stuck in mud or racing.
Indicates that the vehicle powertrain is not in overdrive mode. Overdrive mode means that the transmission is maintaining sustained speed with reduced revolutions of the engine improving fuel economy and limiting wear, but reduces vehicle performance. Some vehicles will indicate the opposite, when overdrive is on, which will show just "O/D" on the dashboard.
Indicates that the parking or handbrake is engaged.
Indicates to the driver that they need to press the clutch to start the vehicle.
Indicates that the driver needs to hold the driving brake in order to start the vehicle.
Indicates to the driver that they need to press the brake to start. However, could also indicate to the driver that they need to press the brake in order to activate/deactivate some driver safety systems such as park assist.
Indicates that the parking brake is engaged.
Electronic Parking Brake
Indicates that the electronic parking brake is active. Electronic parking brakes work by simply pressing a button rather than by pedal or pull handle.
Icy Road Warning
Indicates to the driver that the vehicle has detected icy or slippery road conditions and the electronic stability program is adjusting power and braking control to the wheels.
Indicates that the vehicle is in winter driving mode meaning that vehicle's electronic stability program is optimized for driving in ice and/or snow. Usually only on trucks and SUVs.
Indicates that the vehicle's A/C is in recirculation mode, meaning that the A/C will recirculate cabin air rather than outside air.
Indicates that the front windshield defroster is activated.
Indicates that the rear window defroster is activated.
Indicates that the windshield washer fluid level is low.
Indicates to the driver that seat warming (arrow up) or cooling (arrow down) is activated.
If your vehicle has a warning light on, bring it to the experts at Full Blown Automotive Center. We have the latest diagnostic equipment to connect to your vehicle and determine exactly what may be wrong with it and what needs to be done to correct the issue. Whether you are experiencing a generic check engine light or an airbag fault, Full Blown has you covered. Schedule an appointment online, give us a call, or stop by and have our mechanics check your vehicle today.