Every novice car driver probably experienced a confusing moment in their initial stages of driving when a light started to blink on the car dashboard without knowing what it meant or how to get it off. Dashboard indicator lights are among the most important functionalities of any modern automobile, yet never truly explained by the salesman who sold you the car.
Since a car is an amalgamation of a number of closely synchronised and collectively functioning independent systems, the malfunctioning of any of which can be seriously detrimental to the vehicle. It is important for all those who driver to understand the instrumentation behind each warning signal. There are many indicators available in cars that differ with brand and technology used, but here are some most common dashboard indicators.
Fuel Indicator: Available in all vehicles and one of the most practical indicators, the low fuel indicator advises when the car has reached its reserve fuel capacity and based on the model of the vehicle, either alarms or has a lighted display. Many vehicles also have an arrow to indicate on which side of the car is the fuel cap on.
Check Engine Indicator: This indicator advises the driver that there might be some malfunction with the engine and the vehicle must be checked immediately for proper functioning of the engine system. Although there can be a variety of reasons for this light to be on, the most important and the common ones are to do with the oxygen sensor, the catalytic converter, the spark plug or even the gas lid cap.
Seatbelt Unfastened: This indicator is extremely useful since many of us forget to put on our seatbelts while driving. Since wearing of seatbelts in statutory in many parts of the world attracting huge fines, this indicator often saves its drivers a lot of money as well as lives.
Battery Alert: Denotes that the battery might be undercharged or malfunctioning. Since the battery is an extremely important part of the vehicle, providing power to the major systems, it is very important not to ignore this sign and have the car examined immediately.
Coolant Temperature Warning: This indicator denotes that the engine temperature has crossed the normal limits and is now hotter than it should be. It can be due to the low levels of engine coolant or radiator fuel, or might have something to do with the fan operation. It is important that the vehicle must be stopped immediately if this light glows since thermal overheating can cause major, even irreparable damage to the car engine.
Door Ajar: Another extremely practical warning signal, although not available in entry level cars. The indicator denotes that there is one or more car doors unlocked, including the hood of the car. In many variants, the exact door that is open is also displayed. The car must be immediately stopped and the open door secured.
Brake System Indicator: Another extremely important signal and available on almost all modern cars. The lighting up of the brake system indicator denotes either the parking brakes / hand brakes are engaged, the brake fluid is running low or there might be a problem with the anti-lock braking system (ABS) of the vehicle. Needless to say, the vehicle must be immediately inspected in case this indicator turns on.
Tyre Pressure Warning Light: Most of the Cars in today’s technologically advanced times are equipped with a tyre pressure monitoring system that alerts the driver of the vehicle if the pressure in any one of the tyres drops below its set pressure. It is important to reset this unit every time you pump and fill up your car’s tyres with air. If you see this symbol illuminated you should immediately check the tyres. It is advisable to carry a tyre pressure gauge in your car always.
Traction Control / Stability Control Warning Light: The Illumination of this symbol on your dashboard is an indication that you’ve deactivated your car’s traction control system. But do not panic, because there will be a button somewhere on your dashboard that turns this safety system back on. Another reason for this symbol glowing could be because your wheel alignment is so far out of line that the electronics cannot cope up with it and thus it shows up an error. If it pops up around corners when driving fast or rash, it simply means that traction control is working. If during the course of normal driving you see this illuminated around corners, it could be because of low tyre pressure.
Anti-lock brake warning light : If ABS is the sign illuminated on your dashboard it means that there’s a problem with the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) of your car. Although one can drive easily without ABS in some cars, one should be very careful while applying the brakes taking care not to hit the brakes too hard because in a Car without ABS the brakes are more likely to lock up on doing so. If this happens, head to the nearest Car Repair Shop right away.
Automatic shift lock or engine start warning light: This warning sign looks like a foot inclined at an angle of 45 degrees. The illumination of this symbol indicates that you need to place your foot on the brake to either move the gear shifter (for an automatic) from P for Park to D for Drive, or that you need to have your foot on the brake to start the car.
High beam warning light: This blue warning light gets illuminated when your high beam headlights are activated. You need to dip them if there’s oncoming traffic to avoid dazzling the driver and causing a collision.
Fog Light Activation : Winter chill and fog is here and if your car has fog lights its very much possible for you to activate them inadvertently, both front and rear. And the above symbol would get illuminated to indicate that your fog lights are activated. But if there’s no fog then it’s illegal to drive with them switched on.
In the interest of the vehicle’s safety as well as the personal safety, all car drivers must acquaint themselves with these indicators, their meanings as well as the immediate remedial steps to be taken in case those lights start flashing.
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