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Engine Warning Lights

Engine warning lights


It has probably happened to you before, driving along down the highway when all of a sudden the engine warning light pops up on your dash without warning. What does it mean? Can i keep driving? How much is this going to cost me!?
A bit of education on what all the different warning lights mean can help you understand how serious it is, and take some of the stress away.


This is probably the most frustrating warning light. It doesn’t tell you what the problem is and it can be a range of simple and not so simple issues such as loose fuel caps, oxygen sensors and catalytic convertors.
All new vehicles now come with OBD-II or “On Board Diagnostics 2” This is a fault registering system that is connected to different sensors all over the car, engine and emissions systems. Diagnostic tools can be plugged into the port (usually under the driver’s side dash) so mechanics can read the 4000+ fault codes and reset as necessary.
If your engine warning light does come on it is best to get to a mechanic as quickly as possible to have it diagnosed. If your car is smoking or stalling, don’t drive and have it towed.


This light is pretty straight forward. Normally it will flash on your dash for a few seconds when the vehicle is first turned on.
It is a friendly reminder that you’re getting close to a scheduled maintenance interval or service. Some vehicles will remind you by counting the kilometres driven since the last service, but if your light is flashing before the kilometres are up it could be because your vehicle is a bit more technical and is monitoring the engine and oil temperatures and other indicators for when it might be time for new oil or service.


The battery or electrical light will come on every time you turn on your car, but should disappear as soon as the engine starts.
If it does not disappear, or if it appears whilst you’re driving it means your battery is not being charged correctly due to an issue with your charging system like a broken alternator drive belt or failure or bad battery terminals.
It is best not to continue to drive with this fault as it could lead to you forking out for a new or refurbished alternator or an over heated engine.


This means your coolant fluid levels are low and needs to be topped up to avoid engine damage. Check your coolant levels and top up as appropriate.
Whatever you do, don’t open the radiator cap when the engine is hot, wait till it is cold.


Low oil level:
If this light comes on you need to check your engine oil levels as it is too low. Check your oil levels with the dipstick and top up as appropriate.
If the dipstick is showing the right amount of oil there could be something wrong with the oil level warning system and you will need to have it checked by a mechanic.
Low oil pressure:
Every engine needs an if this light comes on you should turn the vehicle off ASAP as low oil pressure can damage an engine very quickly.


There are a couple of different brake warning lights such as ABS and park and pad. Then you have amber and red ABS and brake lights as well. These will be different in different makes of cars.
Park brake:
This is pretty simple, you left your hand brake on! Whoops!
This light can mean either low brake fluid or that hydraulic pressure has been lost. Either case is serious and needs to be repaired straight away.
All new vehicles are equipped with antilock brakes. If this light is coming on it means there is an issue in the system. Most of the time it will just disable the ABS and not affect your normal braking but this then leaves you without ABS in emergency braking situations.

If the ABS and brake light are on at the same time this is VERY serious and your brakes are failing. Very slowly decrease your speed and do not drive the vehicle!

Remember lights can be different on different makes and models of vehicles so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for correct meaning.

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