You’re in your car, singing along to your favourite song, and suddenly a red warning light appears on your dashboard. Here’s what it means – and what to do …

A simple guide to educate yourself about dashboard warning lights and what they mean, from the experts at Battery Centre:

Engine warning

Engine warning

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This light indicates an issue with your engine. It will often appear if there’s a lack of power or if the car stutters when you accelerate. The issue can be minor – like a sensor cable replacement – but could also be a larger and more costly problem.

Don’t ignore the light as this could lead to irreparable damage. Get professional assistance as soon as possible.

Battery charge warning

Batteer warningIt’s normal to see this light when you switch your car on, but if it doesn’t disappear after a few seconds there could be a problem with your battery, alternator or it could indicate damaged cables linked to the engine. Head to your nearest Battery Centre to have your alternator belt, battery terminals and the overall battery condition checked by the experts.

Oil warning

Oil warning

When the oil temperature gets too high or the oil level and pressure drops too low, you might see this light pop up on your dashboard. Oil keeps the engine nicely lubricated, so it can function fully. When this functioning is compromised or completely lost, it can mean engine damage that’s expensive to fix.

Top up the oil level as soon as possible if you see this light.

Brake and ABS warning

Brakes and ABS

The brake light can indicate that the hand brake is up, the brake fluid is low or there’s an issue with the braking system. When it lights up in conjunction with the anti-braking system (ABS) warning light, this indicates an ABS system fault.

It’s best to bring your speed right down, try not to push the brake pedal too hard and get it checked by a certified mechanic immediately.

Coolant warning


The coolant level is an indication of the vehicle temperature and could mean the engine is overheating – a sign of head gasket failure (major problem) or a minor issue like a leak somewhere in the system.

Check the coolant level in the coolant tank under the bonnet, and top up if necessary. The radiator cap and operation of the fan should also be checked when you see this light.

Airbag fault indicator


When this light is on, it’s an indication that there’s a fault with your vehicle’s airbag – and that’s something you don’t want to mess around with. Get professional assistance immediately to repair the issue.


Power steering warning

Power steeringWhen this light is illuminated it means there’s an issue with the power steering system. When the system fails, the steering wheel becomes heavy and stiff, making it difficult to change the car’s direction. At a low speed, this is mildly annoying, but when you’re on the highway or trying to change lanes to avoid an obstacle, it’s very dangerous.

Security alert

SecurityIf this light is visible after you’ve switched the vehicle on, it typically indicates a malfunction with the security system.

This could pose a risk if your car gets broken into, so it’s best to get it checked as soon as possible.

Cruise control

Cruise controlWhen this light is illuminated it indicates that the cruise control is set at a specific speed during driving. Hitting the brakes or switching your car off will reset the controls and turn off the light and you’ll be able to control the car’s speed manually.

Traction control or ESP

ESPThis light will usually switch on when the road is slippery – it indicates that the electronic stability system is in use. It’s best to slow down and drive cautiously when this light pops up.

Disclaimer: Colour of warning lights may differ from vehicle to vehicle.

Seek professional assistance sooner rather than later if you’re concerned about possible car trouble.