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The Hillside Auto Repair "Secret Decoder Ring" to Dashboard Warning Lights

If you drive a car, you know all about those warning lights on the dashboard.  The dreaded Check Engine light is probably the most well known, but modern vehicles also feature warning lights for low tire pressure, trouble in the cooling system, engine oil issues, and more.  So, if you see one of these lights, what should you do?  Panic?  Keep driving?  Is it safe for you to make it home, or should you stop where you are?  

First, the color of the dashboard light sometimes is an indicator of how serious it is.  A red light is more serious than an orange or amber one, while green or blue symbols are usually just indicators that a particular system is working.   Additionally, be aware that a light on solid and a blinking light mean two different things.  

Flashing vs. Solid

For example, we all know about the Check Engine Light, but you may not know that there is a distinction between a solid one and a flashing one.  A solid check engine light means something has gone wrong (usually emissions-related), and you should get it checked out soon.  A flashing check engine light, on the other hand, means you are actively doing damage to your engine and you should stop driving as soon as possible.

Battery Charge Light  

You may recognize this, as you tend to see it when you start the car, and it goes off as soon as the engine starts. If it doesn’t, or if it comes on while you’re driving, then there may be an issue with the alternator (which charges the battery), or an issue with the alternator drive belt, if it has one of its own (usually, this is controlled by one serpentine belt these days). This is an issue you should take seriously – no one wants to be stranded and this light is telling you that may be a possibility if the problem isn’t identified and fixed. 

Oil Pressure Light

 Another of those lights that you see as you start the engine, and (typically) only then is the oil pressure indicator.  If this light appears while you’re driving, stop as soon as you can and check your oil level.  If it’s low, top it up before you start the engine.  If this light comes on and you’re not low on oil, it could be an indicator of a more serious problem.

ABS LightABS Light

The ABS light is an indicator that has to do with anti-lock brakes.  If this light illuminates, the ABS system isn’t working – now that usually doesn’t mean you have no brakes, but the ABS system is important if your vehicle has one, so it’s good to get this checked out ASAP.

Brake and ABS Warning LightBrake and ABS Warning Light

If you ever see this light and the ABS system light illuminate at the same time, or even just this one by itself, stop driving as soon as you can.  Don’t step on the brake suddenly, instead slow down gradually, and get some assistance right away.

For more essential car care knowledge, stay tuned to the blog here at Hillside Auto Repair, and if you have a dashboard light puzzling you, contact us online or call (310) 504-1243.


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