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Can You Name These 12 Car Dashboard Lights?

Do you know what all of the different lights on your car's dashboard mean? Or do you just ignore them and hope that your car doesn't breakdown?

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Car dashboard modern automobile control illuminated panel speed display vector illustrationMacrovector/Shutterstock

Car dashboard lights

When a light on your dashboard turns on, it means that something is wrong with your car and you should take it in to get looked at. It doesn’t mean that you should give it a few weeks to see if it turns off. Some lights indicate much bigger problems than others, for example, the brake warning lights is a much more urgent fix than the washer fluid reminder light. The more you know about the dashboard lights, the easier it will be for you to identify the problem and figure out how quickly it needs to be fixed. Test your knowledge below and if a light appears on your dash that you’re not familiar with, make sure to check your car’s owner’s manual. Check out these weird car features you didn’t know you might have.

brake warning lightgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #1

Answer: Brake warning light

The brake warning light either means that your emergency brake is on or that your car has an issue with the brake system. The brake system involves the brake pads, braking fluid, and the brake lights that display on the back of your vehicle. All of those elements are very important to your safety when driving so if you see this light come on, take it to a mechanic. 

automatic shift indicatoradmin_design/Shutterstock

Symbol #2

Answer: Automatic shift lock or engine start indicator

The ASL or engine start indicator light means that your car is locked in neutral or park and that you need to step on the brake to release the lock and shift the vehicle into reverse or drive. If you tend to ignore your car dashboard lights, you should watch out for these signs that your car is about to die.

airbag symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #3

Answer: Airbag indicator

You never want to put off getting your car looked at if your airbag light is on. If the light is on (in some cars it will be a light with the letters SRS) it means that something in the system is faulty and your airbags may not deploy during an accident. It could indicate that something is wrong with your seatbelts, the airbag, the computer, or the wiring that controls the airbags.

engine warning symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #4


Answer: Check engine or malfunction indicator light (MIL)

The check engine light is one that gets ignored a lot. Most likely because it can mean that your car just needs a quick fix or that something is seriously wrong with your engine. It turns on when your car’s diagnosis system detects a problem. You don’t need to pull over and turn off your car the second the light comes on, but if you ignore it you could end up making the damage much worse, so take your car in to get looked at as soon as possible. 

tire pressure symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #5

Answer: Tire pressure warning light

The tire pressure warning light indicates that your tire pressure is too low. Having low tire pressure can lead to uneven wear of your tires or tire failure. These 74 maintenance tips will extend the life of your car.

washer fluid symbolgdainti

Symbol #6

Answer: Washer fluid reminder

Luckily, when this light comes on you can fix the problem yourself at home. The washer fluid reminder light just means that the washer fluid in your car is low and that you need to refill it. Keeping a bottle of all seasons washer fluid in your garage is always a good idea.

engine temperature symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #7

Answer: Engine temperature warning light

In many cars, the engine temperature warning light will illuminate blue when the car is first turned on, meaning that the engine hasn’t fully heated up. Then, when the engine has been running for a few minutes, it turns off. It if ever illuminates red it means that your engine is overheating. When the light comes on, pull over and shut off your engine and wait for it to cool down.

automatic gearbox warning symbolMihalex/Shutterstock

Symbol #8

Answer: Automatic gearbox warning

Also called the automatic transmission light, the automatic gearbox warning light means that there is a possible problem with your automatic transmission. The most common reason this light comes on is that the car’s transmission fluid temperature is higher than normal. Make sure to avoid these ways you’re wasting money on your car.

oil pressure symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #9

Answer: Oil pressure warning light

The oil pressure warning light means that the oil pressure in your car is low and that you need to take your car in to get an oil change. If it comes on, stop driving immediately. Having little or no oil in your car can be very damaging to your engine. 

anti lock braking system symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #10

Answer: Anti-lock brake warning

Your car’s anti-lock braking system works to allow your tires to maintain contact with the road in bad driving conditions such as rain or snow or when you stop your car quickly. It keeps your tires from locking up, causing your car to skid. If the ABS light illuminates while you’re driving it means that the system isn’t working properly and it might not work when you brake. 

charge battery symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #11

Answer: Battery charge warning light

A car’s battery runs everything electrical—the engine’s control computer, the radio, the headlights, the ignition system, etc. To keep it running, all cars have a built-in recharging system. If the battery charge warning light comes on it means that the system isn’t working at that your battery is going to die soon. 

traction control symbolgdainti/Shutterstock

Symbol #12

Answer: Traction control light

If your car’s traction control light comes on it means that the system is active. You should have it on when driving in slick conditions. To get the best car possible, make sure you know the signs that you’re about to fall for a bad car deal.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.