If you’ve ever been driving and noticed a new symbol glowing on your dashboard, you’re not alone. Vehicle warning lights can seem cryptic, but understanding them is crucial to maintaining your vehicle’s health and your safety on the road. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common warning lights, their possible causes, and how you should respond when they light up. 

Decoding Common Vehicle Warning Lights

Engine Warning Light

The engine warning light, also known as the check engine light, is a ubiquitous symbol on nearly all vehicle dashboards. It’s usually an image of an engine, and when it lights up, it means your vehicle’s computer has detected a problem. Common causes include issues with the vehicle’s emissions system, such as the oxygen sensor or the catalytic converter, but it can indicate a range of problems, from minor to serious. 

If this light comes on, you should have your vehicle inspected as soon as possible. Ignoring it could lead to more significant problems down the line. Some vehicles have a “blinking” engine light, which usually signifies a more serious issue and should prompt you to immediately reduce driving speed and load.

Brake Warning Light

The brake warning light is typically an exclamation point inside a circle or “brackets.” If this light comes on, it may mean you’ve left your parking brake on. If the parking brake is off and the light remains on, it could signify a more serious issue, like low brake fluid or a problem with the brake system itself.  

In this case, it’s advisable to immediately stop the vehicle and call for assistance. Braking issues can be dangerous, so it’s not a warning light to take lightly.

Oil Pressure Warning

The oil pressure warning usually looks like an old-fashioned oil can or it may say “OIL.” This light indicates that your vehicle’s oil pressure is low, which could be due to low oil levels, a failing oil pump, a leak in the oil system, or an issue with the oil pressure sending unit. 

It’s best to stop the vehicle as soon as it’s safe to do so, and check the oil level. If the oil level is low, adding the correct type of oil for your vehicle may solve the problem. If the oil level is normal, it’s best to have the vehicle inspected by a professional to prevent engine damage.

Battery Alert

The battery alert usually appears as a car battery symbol. This light indicates a problem with the vehicle’s charging system, often meaning the battery isn’t being charged. The issue could stem from a number of causes, including a dying battery, a faulty alternator, or a loose or corroded battery cable.  

If this light comes on while you’re driving, it’s a good idea to turn off any electrical systems that aren’t essential to your vehicle’s operation, like the radio or air conditioning, and get your vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Coolant Temp Warning

The coolant temp warning light typically looks like a thermometer submerged in liquid. If this light comes on, it means your engine is overheating—typically a result of low coolant levels, a leak in the cooling system, or a faulty radiator. 

If you see this light while you’re driving, it’s essential to pull over safely as soon as possible to prevent severe engine damage. You can check the coolant level and add more if needed, but be cautious—never remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot as it can cause severe burns. 


Understanding your vehicle’s warning lights is a fundamental aspect of being a responsible driver. These lights are your vehicle’s way of communicating potential issues, from the minor to the critical. By knowing what each light signifies and taking appropriate action, you can prevent minor problems from becoming major, costly repairs.  

Remember, regular vehicle maintenance is the best way to avoid seeing these lights on your dashboard. Proactively caring for your vehicle ensures its longevity and your safety on the road. So, next time a light flicks on your dashboard, you’ll know just what to do.