Home / Auto / Dashboard warning lights – Do you know REALLY know what these essential symbols mean?

Dashboard warning lights – Do you know REALLY know what these essential symbols mean?


New research has suggested that 48 per cent of motorists don’t understand what each dashboard warning light means. 

In addition to this a survey released earlier this year suggested that nine in ten drivers have had a symbol appear on their dashboard which they haven’t recognised before.

Certain symbols that appear on our dashboard are really familiar and are seen everyday such as directional indicators or headlamp indicators. 

However, some symbols are a little less common and will only appear in the instance of an accident. 

Dashboard warning lightsGETTY

Dashboard warning lights meaning should be known to avoid costly repairs

This gap in driver’s knowledge could therefore end up costing the driver in case an accident occurs, or a breakdown or costly repair. 


It’s easy to ignore the car dashboard when negotiating busy roads

Jonathan Allbones, Director at The Car People


Jonathan Allbones, Director at The Car People said: “It’s easy to ignore the car dashboard when negotiating busy roads, junctions and other drivers, but it is surprising that so many drivers are not familiar with key dashboard symbols that could have just as big an impact on their safety.

“Your dashboard can be a key indicator of the health of your car, and ignoring any symbols can be potentially dangerous for you and other drivers.

“We hope this guide reminds drivers of the symbols to look out for, and what to do should they light up on their dashboard.”

Car supermarket, The Car People, has created a handy guide to key warning signals, and when you should take a trip to the garage:

Engine Maintenance/ECU

If this light flashes up on your dashboard, it may be accompanied by other symptoms, too. Your car may lack power, for example, if it has gone into safe or ‘limp’ mode. 

Sometimes the symptoms may be very subtle, though, and can be down to something as minor as a faulty sensor. If you see this symbol, it is always best to take your car to a garage, and rule out any serious issues.

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Airbag Warning Light

An important safety feature of any car, airbags can be lifesavers in the event of a crash. If this warning light appears, it’s best that you go to a garage for a check. 

It could mean an airbag is faulty and won’t work if you crash, or that one is about to go off which in itself could cause a serious accident 

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Dashboard warning lightsGETTY

New research has suggested that 48 per cent of motorists don’t understand what each symbol means

Brake System/Brake Fluid Warning

As well as a reminder that your handbrake is on, this light can also mean that there is a fault with the brakes – if you have your handbrake off and this light appears it could be a sign of something more serious.

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Power Steering/EPS Warning 

This symbol indicates an issue with the power steering, and you’ll notice that driving starts to feel very heavy and difficult. It can pose a huge risk at higher speeds, if you need to change direction quickly.

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DPF/Diesel Particulate Filter Warning

 A DPF filters the harmful soot out of exhaust gases, and most diesel cars are now fitted with one. If the system becomes clogged up, often caused by taking lots of shorter trips rather than long motorway drives, it can cause irreversible damage that is often expensive to fix. 

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Warning light colours

Red warning lights indicate a serious problem, but may also be a reminder, such as not putting a seatbelt on whilst driving. Yellow or orange means a service is required or a part needs repairing. 

If this symbol is flashing, it means that it’s important that you contact a garage soon. Finally, a green or blue light means that a feature, such as cruise control or  full beam headlights, is currently switched on.



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