What Do Your Car Lights Mean?

What Do Your Car Lights Mean?

When you’re driving along and a warning light illuminates on your dashboard, do you know what to do? Some lights mean you should take your car to a Tire Pros location as soon as possible. Other lights mean you should have the situation looked at during the next service, or you may be able to fix it yourself. Here’s a look at the most common warning lights and what they mean:

Anti-Lock Braking System

This one’s easy: it usually says, “ABS” and is telling you something’s wrong with your anti-lock brakes. You can drive the vehicle home or to a local Tire Pros shop, but keep in mind the car won’t react like you’re accustomed to, particularly in slippery conditions. If it comes on at the same time as the brake warning light, find a place to park immediately and have your car towed.

Brake System

This warning light may look like an exclamation point, or could be the word “Brake.” It means something is wrong with the braking system such as a loss of brake fluid or a stuck parking brake. If this light and the ABS light come on at the same time, pull over as soon as possible.

Parking Brake

The illuminated “P” means the parking brake is on. Disengage it before you start/continue driving.

Check Engine

There are several reasons why this light could illuminate. It often means the engine isn’t operating exactly as planned, but it’s not in danger of failure soon. It may be emitting more polluting gases and possibly using more fuel. To find out what’s going on, take your car to your local Tire Pros. They’ll use a tool to read the diagnostic codes to tell you why the light came on.

Service Vehicle Soon

The light could be an icon of a wrench, or may say “Service Vehicle Soon.” You should heed this warning and have your car checked out as soon as possible.

Engine Temperature Warning

This means the engine is running hotter than normal. There are many reasons why this could be the case, some worse than others. Have the car checked as soon as possible to avoid further engine problems that could turn out to be quite expensive.

Battery/Charging Alert

The car’s charging system, including the battery and alternator, isn’t working. That means the vehicle is running on battery power, which can drain the battery quickly. Find a safe place to stop soon because your car could die within a few minutes.

Gas Cap

This light will look like a gas cap, or it may read, “Check fuel cap.” It means your gas cap is not tight enough. That can affect the way your engine runs and could be a safety hazard. The gas cap could be missing or just loose.

Low Fuel Indicator

This symbol that looks like a gas pump lets you know it’s time to refuel. You could have on average 30-50 miles remaining.

Oil pressure

The light that looks like an oil can with a drip on the spout indicates your engine is low on oil or the oil isn’t circulating properly. If the light is flashing that means the oil level is very low, or you have a significant leak. Stop the car or find a place to add oil as soon as possible.

Oil Change

Some vehicles have a light that reminds you it’s time to change the oil. The system doesn’t monitor the oil level or quality. It makes the recommendation due to mileage or time according to the manufacturer’s service schedule. Your local Tire Pros can reset the light after an oil change.


This symbol will light up red to remind you to buckle your seatbelt, as well as your passengers. It might light up if you’ve placed something heavy in the passenger seat because the car thinks someone’s sitting there.

Steering System Warning

This light illuminates if your hydraulic power steering system has a problem. The most common cause is low power steering fluid. You can add fluid to the correct level and see if that takes care of the problem. If the light is still on, take your car in for service.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)

This light with an exclamation point inside of a “U” shaped tire lets you know that at least one your vehicle’s tires are low on air. Check the tire pressure as soon as you can.

Traction/Electronic Stability Control Active

The indicator that shows a car with wavy tracks coming from the rear tires lights up when the traction control system is engaged. It’s not really a warning but an indicator that the system is working to keep your car steady in slippery conditions.

Traction/Electronic Stability Control Malfunction

This light is usually a triangle with an exclamation point, inside a curved arrow and tells you the traction control, or electronic stability system, is not working properly. This is something that can be checked out later, but keep in mind your car won’t be helping as much when you drive in slippery conditions.

Washer Fluid

The symbol that looks like a spray of water is telling you it’s time to refill the washer fluid.