Common Warning Lights and What They Mean

Dashboard warning lights are such an important part of our vehicles, yet many of them go unnoticed or ignored. There are various lights and symbols you may see appear on your dash, usually with vague depictions of the system the vehicle is warning you about. 

While not every light that could appear on your dash is “as important” as some others, it’s still crucial to understand what the various lights mean so you don’t accidentally ignore a critical warning. 

Colors of the Warning Lights

One of the easiest ways to narrow down the meaning of your warning light is the color of the light itself. While the symbol usually describes the system in need of attention, the color instead describes the importance of the warning and how quickly you should address it. 


Blue and green dashboard lights are used to signal that a system is on and operating. For example, the headlight icon is often illuminated in blue or green to show the driver that they are currently on. These lights are there to provide information about active systems, not to alert you of a problem. 


Yellow and orange lights are often used to show that a system needs to be serviced, repaired, or otherwise attended to. The most common of these is the low fuel light, but some systems and components may use yellow or orange warning lights (think Check Engine Light). 


If a light is either red and/or blinking on and off, it’s likely warning you of a critical issue that should be addressed immediately. This can be safety-related such as the seatbelt or airbag lights, or a mechanical issue such as a misfire or overheating in the engine. 

Common Dash Lights You Should Know

TPMS Light

TPMS icon

Your tire pressure monitoring system is responsible for warning you of tires that are not inflated to the proper pressure. Tires with low PSI can make driving your vehicle more difficult, reduce your fuel economy, and can also make it unsafe. 

When confronted with this light, you should check your tire pressure manually, and have low tires inflated as soon as you can to ensure your vehicle is safe and comfortable to drive. 

Oil Pressure Light

Oil pressure icon

One of the most important lights to keep an eye on is the oil pressure light. When this symbol appears on your dash, it’s telling you that the pressure within the oil system is not adequate. 

This issue can appear for a few reasons. This could mean your vehicle is critically low on oil, the flow of oil through the engine is impeded, or your oil pump is unable to circulate enough oil to properly lubricate the engine. Low oil pressure is a big problem for your vehicle, as a lack of lubrication can cause catastrophic damage to your engine. 

If you notice this light on your dashboard, you should check your oil level on your dipstick immediately. If your oil is at the proper level, you should have your vehicle inspected by a trusted professional to find the source of the issue. It’s never safe to drive your vehicle with an oil-pressure light. 

Traction Control Light

Traction control icon

Your traction control light isn’t seen often, but when it is on, the driver should understand the meaning of it and how it affects the driving mechanics of the vehicle.

Your vehicle’s traction control system is responsible for keeping your car under control in situations where the traction is low, such as taking a corner on wet or snowy roads. The yellow light depicting a car fishtailing will illuminate when your traction control system is active and help your car make adjustments when losing traction.

When this light is solid on the dash, it most often means the traction control system has been disabled (usually by a button in the vehicle or an option in digital menus). When the light is instead flashing, it may mean there is an issue preventing the system from working properly.

When this light is present on your dashboard, you should drive very carefully and stay aware of the road conditions. If your traction control system is inoperable, bring your vehicle in for an inspection and repair to ensure it is safe to drive in inclement weather. 

ABS Warning Light

ABS icon

Similar to your traction control system, the anti-brake lock (ABS) system is your vehicle’s way of keeping you safe. ABS prevents your brakes from “locking up”, or stopping the wheels from turning and causing the vehicle to slide. Under heavy braking, your ABS allows your wheels to keep turning and prevent loss of traction and flat spots on your tires,.

When this symbol appears on your dash, it means that your ABS is either disabled or has some sort of malfunction preventing it from working properly. This won’t prevent you from driving, however, you should be cautious when braking while ABS is not active as it can lead to dangerous situations under heavy braking or evasive driving. 

Brake Warning Light

Brake warning icon

The brake warning light is another dashboard light that has multiple meanings. This light is most often seen when the parking brake is engaged and will be turned off when the parking brake is released.

However, the meaning changes completely when the light is present while driving. If the warning is continually lit up, it means your braking system needs attention. Either the hydraulic pressure is too low on one side of the system or the fluid level in the master cylinder is critically low. Driving with compromised brakes is extremely dangerous and you should have your vehicle inspected immediately when seeing this warning. 

Brake lights may appear as the above symbol with an exclamation mark inside, or simply as the word “BRAKE” illuminated in red.

Engine Temperature Light

Engine temperature warning icon

The engine temperature light will illuminate when your engine’s temperature rises above the maximum safe operating temperature. This can happen for various reasons, but an overheating motor is not an issue to take lightly. 

Overheating can result in irreparable damage, which is why you should never let a temperature warning linger. If you notice this light on your dashboard, stop the car immediately and have it inspected by a trusted professional. 

Vehicle Diagnostics in Naperville

Don’t let warning lights linger! If your vehicle is experiencing a warning light, trust the ASE-certified technicians at Becker Service Center for accurate diagnostics and top-quality repairs! Call or schedule online today.