Dashboard warning lights: What to do?

Most vehicles today are equipped with dashboard warning lights to tell drivers that something is not quite right and may need checking. The onboard computers in modern vehicles monitor everything from emission levels, engine temperature, oil pressure and even windscreen wipers. The technology is there for a reason so don’t ignore warning lights that stay on. Failure to pay attention to possible faults could result in more serious and expensive damage.

So what should you do when driving down the M40 and the engine light flashes like it’s Christmas? As many drivers don’t know what all the dashboard warning lights mean, Elite Garages has decided it is time for a master class in car maintenance. Not only do we want to help you, but our goal is also to increase awareness of effective car maintenance to your entire family, even the grandchildren.

The general assumption is that red warning lights mean immediate action so it’s wise to take heed. Amber or orange and other colour lights may not be as serious but often means that something still needs checking and ideally at a trustworthy and reliable garage. One thing is certain, regardless of the colour, the first thing you should do is find a safe place to pull over and check your vehicle’s handbook.

Unless the warning light clearly states what the issue is, such as low windscreen wash, we recommend having it seen to as soon as possible. This is especially important if it’s the oil warning light or brake system warning lights as they control essential functions of the car. Many garages deal with countless vehicles where drivers ignored the warning lights for too long. Why risk an unnecessary expense or dangerous situation if you can avoid it altogether?

Your Guide To Dashboard Warning Lights

Although most warning lights are similar in all vehicle makes and models, their exact location may vary. In this handy guide, we’ll take a look at a few common dashboard warning lights.

Engine light

While it could mean a serious fault, there are also a number of other reasons such as a loose connection or a system malfunction. Either way, it’s always safer to get it checked at a reputable garage. They will be able to identify the issue before it becomes a real concern, especially as it could relate to the catalytic converter or diesel particulate filter. If you don’t experience a loss of power, it is still safe to drive but you should really have it checked.

Battery warning

This light comes on momentarily when you turn on your car which is completely normal. However, when it lights up red while driving, your battery is no longer being charged. That means it is not safe to drive and requires immediate attention. The battery warning light could indicate faulty wiring or a problem with your alternator or the alternator drive belt.

Oil pressure warning light

Cars need the correct oil pressure so that all the necessary parts stay lubricated. If the light comes on it could mean your oil level is low and needs topping up. When the light remains on after adding oil, there could be a problem with the oil pump or oil filter. In this instance, keep the engine switched off and get expert assistance as soon as possible.

Brake lights

Aside from oil pressure, the brake warning light is possibly one of the most important. Don’t be too alarmed at first as you may have just forgotten to release the handbrake. If not, check your brake fluid level next and top it up if necessary. If the light is still on afterwards, and you have to push your brake pedal further than usual, your hydraulic circuits could be faulty. Other possibilities include brake pads, a brake fluid leak or a sensor failure. Whatever the problem, we recommend pulling over immediately and get your vehicle towed to your local garage for a thorough check.

Temperature warning

If the temperature light comes on at any time after turning on the ignition, the engine is either running too hot or there is insufficient coolant (or antifreeze). While there are several reasons for this, including a leak in the radiator, a blocked pipe or a faulty water pump, ignoring any of them could have dire consequences. You could break down at a moment’s notice causing serious damage to the engine. The biggest concern is a blown head gasket, which can signal catastrophic engine failure if you don’t turn off the engine immediately.

Glow plug warning light (diesel cars only)

While petrol engines need spark plugs to ignite the air/fuel mixture, diesel motors have glow plugs using compression and temperature instead. These glow plugs are used to increase the heat and the warning light shows a problem with the plugs or the computer systems that control them. When glow plugs are faulty, they cause a knocking sound in your engine as a result of early or late combustion. Although it is not as serious as brakes or oil pressure, your vehicle will not operate as smoothly or efficiently as it should. Get it seen to as soon as possible to keep your vehicle in optimal working condition

Water in diesel warning light

This is a problem commonly associated with contaminated fuel or water in the fuel filter. If you have just refuelled and the light appears, turn off your engine immediately as the contaminated diesel could damage your entire fuel system. When the light comes on and you filled up some time ago, it is still safe to drive but get to a service centre as soon as you can. Chances are that you need to drain the filter or replace it completely.

At the end of the day, why wait for dashboard warning lights before you take care of your vehicle? While drivers won’t know when or if something needs a service, prevention is always better than cure. In fact, many industry experts recommend taking your car for a diagnostic check at least once a year. This helps identify minor problems that can’t be seen or heard and also won’t trigger any warning lights. If you’re a frequent traveller, perhaps this should be the next point on your to-do list.

Car Maintenance And Diagnostic Checks

If you have a warning light on your dashboard and don’t know what it means, contact your local branch. Elite Garages’ trained technicians can carry out a diagnostic test on most makes and models to quickly diagnose a potential problem. Our car diagnostic test picks up all sorts of errors and identifies exactly what they mean. This allows us to help you prevent component failures before they lead to further damage.

We pride ourselves in giving our customers the highest level of customer service you would expect from a family run business. Whether you’re a business owner, student or enjoying retirement, we provide better value than dealerships without compromising on quality and efficiency.

A diagnostic check is a fact-finding mission and if there are problems with your engine or other parts, we also provide you with a free, no-obligation service quote. Get in touch with our friendly and professional team to book your diagnostic check with Elite Garages today!

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