The Meaning Behind The Symbols On Your Car's Dashboard

When your vehicle's dashboard shows you a symbol, they should not be ignored. When something goes wrong with your car or if a feature you should know about gets activated, a signal funnels through the electrical system and into the dashboard. Here are the meanings behind some of the symbols you should pay attention to.


1. Warning Symbols

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Red indicates a potential problem, failure or safety issue that should be checked by a professional. Drive with care!

Battery Warnings:
The car's charging system is short of power. You are running solely on battery.

Temperature Warning:

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Your engine is too hot. Upon starting, the engine temperature warning light should come on and then go off in two seconds or less. But if it stays on, or comes on while you’re driving, there’s a problem.

Oil Pressure Low:
Your engine is running low on oil, or there is a problem with your car's oil pressure system.

Brake Warning:
There is an issue with your anti-lock brake system that needs to be diagnosed and fixed.


2. SAFETY SYMBOLS

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These symbols might appear as different colours but they should be looked at when it is safe.

Seat Belt Not On:
You or one of your passengers are not wearing their seatbelt. Make sure you or the person next to you buckles up!

Airbag Deactivated:

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Airbags are proven, effective safety devices. They offer excellent protection against head or chest injuries. When used in combination with seat belts, they significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury when an accident occurs.

However, airbags sometimes cause injuries when they deploy. Most of the time, such injuries are limited to minor cuts, bruises or abrasions, but very rarely they may be more serious, even fatal.  Many vehicles you will find on Clutch.ca have the option of having the Airbag on/off button. This symbol shows when the airbag has been deactivated.

Airbag Warning:
This symbol shows there may be an issue with one or more of your car's airbags, or the airbag system in general.

Automatic Gearbox Warning:
One of the most common issues that causes this indicator light to illuminate, is that the transmission fluid temperature is higher than normal.

Trailer Tow Hitch Warning:
Typically, the trailer tow hitch warning light can come on for a few different reasons. Depending on the kind of car, this light could indicate that the tow hitch is unlocked or that there's an issue with the lighting system.

Press Clutch Pedal:

For manual transmissions, the press clutch pedal light is just a reminder that the clutch needs to be pressed in before the engine can be started. Once the clutch pedal is depressed, the light should go off and you can begin your journey.

Service Required:
The service required light is mainly used to remind drivers when it is time to change the oil and filter, but could be used for other fluids or components.

Parking Brake Light:
This light is the parking brake warning light. Depending on the make of the vehicle, it can be either red or orange. It illuminates to show that the parking brake or emergency brake is engaged and must be released before driving.

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Engine Warning:
The check engine light on the dashboard is a warning that many vehicle owners dread. ... It could be caused by something as simple as a loose gas cap or a faulty oxygen sensor or spark plug or something as severe as a faulty catalytic converter or major engine problems, so you shouldn't ignore it.

Catalytic Converter Warning:
This light is made to warn the driver that the catalytic converter is either overheating or not operating as intended. The inside of the catalytic converter consists of a honeycomb design that increases the surface area in contact with the air.

Tire Pressure Warning:

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This symbol is to alert you when tire pressure is too low and could create unsafe driving conditions. If the light is illuminated, it means your tires could be under-inflated, which can lead to tire wear and possible tire failure.

Brake Pad Warning:
Some vehicle manufacturers include this symbol, which is intended to notify you that your vehicle's brake pads are worn, or low, and need servicing. Your brakes may also pulse or squeak as a warning when the brake pads are low.

Power Steering Warning Light:
This light, a steering wheel and exclamation point, indicates that your vehicle's power steering fluid levels are low or that there is a fault in the system. The steering wheel looks slightly different depending on the model of car or truck.

Air Suspension Warning:
Certain vehicles come equipped with an air-ride suspension. If the Check Air Suspension signal lights up, the vehicle has detected a problem with the air suspension system, which could be caused by a variety of things.

Fuel Filter Warning:
Inside the fuel filter is a fluid level sensor that keeps track of the amount of water that has been collected. Once the level starts reaching maximum capacity, the fuel filter warning light will illuminate to let you know to empty the filter.

Stability Warning Off:
If the computer detects a loss of steering control or traction, the computer can reduce the engine power and/or engage the brakes to try and retain control of the vehicle.


3. COMMON SYMBOLS

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These symbols will look more familiar to you. These are the most common symbols you will see on your dashboard and are pretty straight forward.

Hood Open:
The hood of your vehicle may be open and you should make sure it is closed.

Trunk Open:
You may have forgot, or didn’t shut your trunk hard enough, double check so you don’t lose your groceries.

Door Open:
You or a passenger may have not closed their door hard enough. Some vehicles will indicate which door it is.

Key Not Found In Vehicle:
You will see this mostly in newer vehicles like the ones available on Clutch.ca that have keyless entry. This symbol is letting you know the key fob was not detected to start the car or if a passenger gets out with the key fob.

Low Fuel:

Car owners will see this a lot! This is a warning that you will need to fill your gas tank as soon as possible.

Washer Fluid Low:
The windshield washer fluid level in your vehicle is low. You should fill it back up as soon as you can. Having a dirty windshield can prevent you from seeing clearly, and can cause an accident.

Service Reminder:
The service required light is mainly used to remind drivers when it is time to change the oil and filter, but could be used for other fluids or components.

Information Indicator:
This Indicator light will turn on momentarily if the ignition switch is locked and will need the proper transponder-equipped key to restart. If the light is visible when the vehicle is on, then it typically indicates a malfunction in the security system.


4. ADVANCED FEATURE SYMBOLS AND INDICATORS

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Speed Limiter:
if the car gets to the limited speed, then pushing the pedal normally will have no effect: the limiter will prevent the vehicle going any faster.

Cruise Control On:
Indicates that the Cruise Control has been set to a selected speed.

Parking Assist:
Generally, if the parking assist light is illuminated in green on your dash, it indicates that the system is active and assessing the road around you. You may need to toggle a button to turn the system on or it may turn on automatically at low speeds or when the reverse mode is engaged.

Winter Mode:

As a Frost or Freeze warning indicator, the snowflake symbol will come on in yellow/amber when the outside temperature drops to within a few degrees of freezing (about 40°F).

Lane Departure Warning:
When your vehicle is equipped with the Lane Keeping System, it can let you know when you're drifting out of your lane. If enabled, the system will automatically detect lane markings and alert you if you begin drifting outside of your driving lane. Lane Keeping does not control steering.

Eco Driving Indicator:
The closer the indicator bar is to the left, the better your fuel economy is at that moment. When you use a light touch on the accelerator, the bar will stay in the eco range and the green eco-indicator will appear in the instrument display. That just means it's most likely that you're using more fuel than you need to.

Rain Sensor:

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This system turns the windshield wipers automatically by detecting rain on the windshield.

Ignition Switch Warning:
Depending on the vehicle, this warning light could mean a few things. It could indicate an issue with the ignition switch or show that there is a problem with the key being used. An issue with the ignition switch is usually mechanical and it would prevent the key from turning.


We hope this blog gave you more knowledge on your vehicle’s dashboard symbols and now you’re ready for any indication that pops up. If you see these symbols on a regular basis, perhaps it is time for a vehicle upgrade. Every one of our Clutch vehicle’s undergoes a 210-point Clutch inspection by a certified mechanic and we ensure that our vehicles don’t have these indication lights. We use these inspections to ensure every car we sell is like-new quality; we won’t settle for anything less and don’t think you should either.

Browse our website at www.clutch.ca to see our wide selection of great vehicles! Oh & remember, when in doubt get a professional to check it out. Drive Safe! 🚙💙