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Dashboard Warning Lights - What Do They Mean?
Car Maintenance & Vehicle Safety Issues
If your check engine light is on, it is pretty obvious that your vehicle requires some sort of repair or service, but what do the many other warning indicator lights mean? With today's highly technical and electrically controlled vehicles, dashboard warning lights are more specific and varied than ever. Some warning lights alert you to the presence of a general automotive problem somewhere within the vehicle. Some remind us when our vehicle is due for regular maintenance, and some alert us to very specific and dangerous conditions that must be repaired by an experienced mechanic immediately.
Check Engine Light
The check engine light indicates that the auto computer has found a problem in the vehicle, most likely in the auto ignition, auto fuel system, or auto emissions systems. This light is designed to help you catch minor car problems before they turn into major automotive repair needs. Take your car, truck, or SUV to your local auto repair mechanic shop for diagnosis.
With specialized computer scanners, a car mechanic can find vehicle trouble codes to determine which of the automotive systems is malfunctioning. It is important to note that trouble codes simply point an auto repair mechanic in the right direction. It still takes considerable automotive and diagnostic expertise to find and repair the exact source of your car's problem.
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Antilock Braking System (ABS) Warning Light
Your antilock brake system light may indicate a few different things. It could mean that your car is low on brake fluid. It will also let you know if your antilock brakes system sensors have become corroded, or if the brake calipers are sticking. These conditions can all lead to serious safety issues including your vehicle failing to stop in an emergency. Have a brake mechanic specialist at a high-quality local brake shop diagnose the vehicle.
Charge Car Battery Light/ Car Battery Gauge
The automotive charging system powers the auto electrical components within the vehicle and recharges the battery while the car's engine is running. Your car or truck's engine relies on this reserve of electricity to generate the spark which ignites the gas to start and run the vehicle. The charge car battery light indicates that the charging system is malfunctioning.
Your vehicle may be in need of alternator repair even if the car battery is not yet dead. If you ignore this light, you will eventually find yourself with a dead car battery, and your car won't start. Operating the vehicle on electricity from the battery alone will only work for a short time because the alternator is not functioning to simultaneously recharge it. Drive your vehicle to the best local auto repair shop near you for diagnosis and repair.
*** Conserve electricity while driving to your mechanic shop by turning off all auto electrical components, and avoid turning off and restarting the engine.
Vehicle maintenance & safety issue dashboard indicators light up temporarily when you turn your car on.
Low Auto Engine Oil Warning Light
The oil light indicates that your vehicle is low on oil. Low engine oil is very serious, pull over immediately! Driving with low engine oil can cause the engine to lock up or overheat. Both of these conditions cause major damage to your vehicle's engine and require professional engine repair or engine rebuilding by a certified auto engine mechanic.
*** Keeping up with regular oil changes and maintaining the proper level of high-quality engine oil are the most important preventative maintenance steps you can take to extend the performance and lifetime of your car or truck's engine.
The temperature gauge monitors the temperature of the engine. When the needle is in the red zone, it means that your car is overheating. Pull over immediately! Do not attempt to drive the vehicle to the best auto repair shop nearby until you have given the engine ample time to cool.
*** If you continue driving while your car is overheating, it can lead to a crack in the cylinder head or a blown head gasket. Both of these issues require major professional auto repair, and you may have to replace your auto engine entirely.
Brake System Warning Light
Your vehicle's brake light remains illuminated when the parking brake is engaged. If the brake light remains on when the parking brake is not engaged, your truck or car is low on brake fluid. Low brake fluid may be caused by a leak in the brake lines or the need for a brake job or brake pad replacement. This is a major safety issue- without brake fluid, your car will not stop in an emergency!
*** It is important to note that this light ONLY indicates low brake fluid (or that the parking brake is on). Your vehicle may have severely worn brake pads or be in need of brake repair even if the light is not on. Have your brakes checked regularly by an ASE certified mechanic at a quality brake repair shop, and have any "screeching" noise from the brakes diagnosed immediately.
Gas Gauge/ Gas Warning Light
This one is pretty obvious, but there are a few tips to remember. Don't drive with the gas tank on empty! First of all, you might run out of gas and get stranded on a busy highway, or in the middle of nowhere (think "Wrong Turn"). Driving on "E" can also cause auto engine problems by allowing contaminants to be sucked from the bottom of the gas tank into the fuel system.
*** It is also a good idea to monitor your car or truck's gas mileage. A decline in fuel economy is a sign that your car may be in need of a car tune-up or engine performance repair.