Everything is running great with your car when suddenly – a warning light comes on the dashboard. There are literally dozens of warning and check engine lights on today’s modern cars, each of them with their own meaning and sources. While they will always vary based on each automotive manufacturer, warning lights can be divided into 3 general colors. Most of these warning lights are red, but it is important to know the level of attention a light requires based on colour, steady or blinking status.
Lights of a bright red colour indicate a potentially serious issue requiring immediate servicing by a mechanic. Red could also be a scheduled maintenance reminder that turns on after a certain mileage is reached, or to notify the driver that certain systems are engaged, like the parking brake or airbag.
A yellow or orange light, like the check engine light, tends to signal a part that needs servicing or replacement outside of regular servicing. A flashing yellow light means this component needs to be inspected immediately.
Mellower green or blue dash lights typically let the driver know of an active system, like headlights or air conditioning. These red and yellow warning lights should be considered very serious when they illuminate.
Check Engine Light
Very common in accidented cars, a.k.a “tokunbo cars”, the check engine light has the most possible sources. This will illuminate in a yellow/orange color when the vehicle’s ECU detects a mechanical or electrical fault as picked up by one of the sensors that monitors your engine, transmission and safety systems. It could be as simple as a faulty sensor or a serious problem with internal engine components.
What do to if it happens: Anytime the check engine light is triggered, you should take it seriously. Contact a professional mechanic and have them complete a check engine light inspection, so they can determine why this light is on, and what repairs are needed to fix it. You should not drive the vehicle until this issue has been resolved if at all possible.
Brake Warning Light
According to most professional mechanics, this is one of those warning lights that can be 100% avoided. In most situations, when the brake warning light is illuminated, it means the parking brake has been left on. Try verifying that the parking brake is in good shape first to see if it goes away. If it does not, it is possible that you are running low on brake fluid or there is a mechanical issue with the brakes. While replacing brake pads, rotors, and calipers as recommended can significantly reduce this issue, it is something that should be taken seriously if it illuminates on the dash.
What to do if it happens
When the brake light is on, check your parking brake first – 80% of the time this will resolve the issue. If it does not, contact a professional mechanic and have them complete a brake warning light inspection before driving further.
Engine Temperature Warning Light
This warning light is intended to alert drivers that the engine temperature has increased past the recommended degree. While it can often indicate the vehicle is overheating, this is not always the case. Sometimes this warning light will illuminate if the engine temperature sensor is damaged or not sending accurate data to the ECU. In other instances, it means the coolant temperature is too hot, or the engine is overheating.
What to do if it happens
Since an overheating engine can cause serious damage – from a blown head gasket to damaging internal engine components – you should immediately pull over to a safe location, shut the engine off and contact a towing service to have your vehicle brought back home. This will permit a mobile mechanic to inspect the vehicle to diagnose the light’s cause and recommend the right repairs.