Understanding Your Car's Emergency Lights

Understanding Your Car’s Emergency Lights

March 17, 2023

Your car’s dashboard has plenty of lights that illuminate briefly as you drive. These are how your vehicle communicates with you that something’s wrong. Occasionally one of them will stay on for longer than usual, which can be an important warning sign. Understanding what each one means is crucial to avoid any breakdowns or accidents. 

Oil Pressure Warning 

Your engine needs oil to provide lubrication and carry heat away from the internal combustion chamber. This oil circulates in a pressurized stream through the engine’s many precision-made metal parts. If the oil doesn’t flow properly, it can cause serious problems in your engine.  

So, when the oil pressure warning light pops on, it’s usually because something isn’t right with your engine’s oil system. If the oil pressure light comes on, it’s important to take action quickly and safely. Pull over to a safe place, turn off the engine and check the dipstick for the correct oil level. Low oil pressure can cause serious damage to your vehicle, so don’t wait to have it checked out. If you ignore the problem, you could be facing a lot of costly repairs or even the need for a new engine. 

Check Engine Light 

When you see the check engine light, it means that a problem is affecting your car’s engine or emissions control system. These systems monitor and regulate a variety of parameters, such as engine speed, fuel mixture, ignition timing, and more. This is an important indicator that something has gone wrong, and it’s a good idea to get it checked out as soon as possible. In fact, ignoring a problem can lead to further issues that could be more difficult to fix. 

Oil Change Light 

Unless you have an older vehicle, most modern cars come with a computer system that calculates your engine oil life and notifies you when it’s time for an oil change. The system is based on a number of factors, including how often you drive and how much you use your car. In any case, ignoring this warning light is like playing with fire, because driving with oil that’s low or dirty can result in serious engine damage. So, get off the road as soon as possible and get your engine towed to a mechanic. They’ll be able to help you avoid this issue in the future. 

Tire Pressure Warning 

When a tire’s air pressure drops below the recommended PSI, the TPMS system sends that information to your vehicle’s computer. That’s what triggers your warning light. Regardless of whether the sensor is directly mounted on your tire or through wheel speed sensors used by your anti-lock brake system, the computer uses a series of data points to determine the air pressure loss that triggers the warning. 

The TPMS typing comes on when a tire is underinflated by 25% of the recommended pressure, which can cause a number of problems. Underinflated tires can reduce your fuel efficiency, deteriorate their tread, and result in poor handling and ride quality. If the TPMS alert turns on, it is essential to have your tires reinflated immediately. 

Battery Indicator Light 

Batteries convert chemical energy into electricity, so they’re vital for keeping your radio, lights and other electronics operating. Without a functioning battery, your car would stop working and you could be stranded on the side of the road. When the battery light comes on, it means that something is wrong with your alternator or your charging system. It may be a minor issue that is easily fixed, or it could be more serious and require replacement. If you notice the light is on, turn off your car’s ignition and try to find a safe place to pull over. 

Brake Warning 

Your brakes work by amplifying the force of your foot on the pedal with a system of lines filled with hydraulic brake fluid, which clamps down on the brake discs or activates the brake drums to slow and stop your car. If your brakes become compromised, you’ll no longer be able to control your vehicle, which is a serious safety concern for yourself and other drivers. 

The most common reason for a brake warning light to come on is low brake fluid pressure. This happens when there is a leak in your hoses, line connections or even the master cylinder itself. A low fluid level can compromise your ability to slow and stop your vehicle, so it’s crucial that you have your brakes inspected by a certified mechanic as soon as possible. 

Traction Control 

Your car’s traction control system was designed to help prevent your tires from spinning too quickly and losing traction. The system uses sensors, computers, and actuators to detect the spinning of a tire and slow its speed. 

The traction control light should come on briefly when your car starts and stay lit when the system is actively working to maintain traction. It will go off when the system is no longer needed. It can also flash briefly if you happen to pass over a slick spot on the road. This means that the system is activated due to low-traction road conditions such as ice, snow, or rain and is assisting with maintaining traction. 

Traction control is a safety feature and should never be disabled. However, if the traction control light stays illuminated or flickers at all times while you are driving, there is a problem, and the traction control system should be checked by your mechanic immediately. 

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