Are you interested in learning the dashboard symbols and meanings? Well, if that is the case, then you are at the right place because, in this article, there will be a lot to cover on this topic and we are going to elaborate on everything in great detail.
Doing your research on a particular issue is always a good idea. You should always make sure that you are properly informed. Especially when it comes to dashboard symbols. Since there could be a lot of symbols on the dashboard.
Modern cars are packing so many features compared to older vehicles which only had a notification about the oil and when your gas tank was near to being empty. Many more features, mean a lot more symbols on your dashboard.
And by a lot, we really mean more than a few. And luckily for you, we are going to elaborate on all of them in detail. First, we are going to learn what are car dashboard symbols for the people who don’t know.
And then we will list them and describe their purpose in the car. Lastly, we will cover some frequently asked questions that many people are interested in. So, if you want to learn more about dashboard symbols, follow along.
What Are Car Dashboard Symbols
Now before we learn more about the car dashboard symbols and meanings, let’s first introduce ourselves to the topic and learn more about these symbols in general. Why this is essential? Well, people are struggling with similar issues and want to learn more about the basic stuff. So, this chapter is for them.
So, what are dashboard symbols? Well, dashboard symbols resemble small icons. And these icons are installed on your dashboard to deliver essential information about the work of the car.
The type of information really depends on the light itself. There can be lights concerned with the lighting system, lights concerning safety, lights concerning the powertrain, and so on.
And on each dash, there are more than a few of these symbols that turn on if some conditions are met. Back in the day, there were no major lights, you only got an engine oil light and the gas light, and that was it.
But you should not look at the downsides and think cars nowadays are very complex. Maybe they are but they also save you thousands of dollars. Since a light can tell you if you have a problem with your engine and you will take your car to a shop. Something which was not able to do back in the day.
So, even though modern cars have so many symbols, these symbols are there for a good reason. And you should not be scared of learning the car dashboard symbols and meanings. And more about that, we are going to cover next.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings
Now let’s dive into the dashboard symbols and meanings. On our list, we are going to discuss the most common ones that can appear on any car out there.
We will not address some manufacturer-specific ones since there will be more than a few to cover. For more on those, you can consult your owner’s manual to learn about them. Now let’s begin discussing.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #1: Check Engine Light
Now let’s start discussing the car dashboard symbols and meanings, the first on our list is probably the most notorious light that a lot of car owners shake in fear when they see it. And then start to pretend like it is not there.
And this light is the check engine light. This light is also known as MIL or Malfunction Indicator Lamp. And every car after 1996 has one of these lights. This light visually resembles an engine. And underneath it might say “CHECK” or “CHECK ENGINE”. But, what does this light mean?
This light is basically an indication of a problem in your car. The car computer is constantly testing sensors and whenever the computer notices that there are too many red flags, it will trigger this check engine light.
The issue can be very simple like a gas cap that doesn’t seal well. But it can also be something more complex, like a sensor or internal engine damage. You never know until you test the car with an OBD2 scanner.
Only by reading the codes, you will be able to learn why this check engine light is there and what you should do, to sort this problem out.
This is why the check engine light should never scare you. This is a good thing since you are notified that there is a problem. It is much better to tackle this problem when it first appears than be left out in the middle of nowhere stranded.
Speaking of check engine lights, we have plenty of other CEL-related resources that you might find useful depending on the situation, if you’d like to check them out:
- What to do when the check engine light comes on
- How to reset a check engine light
- Why the check engine light comes on and off
- Why is the check engine light flashing
- How to turn off the check engine light
- What is a gas cap check engine light
- Why is the check engine light blinking as your car is shaking
Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #2: Battery Light
Now let’s cover the next in our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings. And this symbol is the battery light. So, what is the battery light and why is it on?
Well, the battery light is a special light that is on the dashboard for the purpose to inform you about problems with the battery or the charging of the battery.
So, keep this in mind, this light does not mean that your battery is dead. There could be an alternator that is bad (or else you might notice an alternator warning light, instead) and is not charging the battery as well. Or a blown fuse for example can also cause this problem.
Still, the battery is somewhat empty and this is why this light is triggered on the cluster. This is why inspecting the health of the battery, as well as inspecting the health of the alternator and how much it is charging is the way to go.
And this light is really important because if you don’t sort the problem out quickly, you could end up stranded eventually. That’s why we recommend addressing the problem really quickly. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #3: Oil Light
Next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the oil light. This is honestly the third most important light for you to know.
This light usually resembles one of the old-school oiling cans that were used back in the good old days. And is always colored red, similar to the battery light.
The oil light also appears for many different reasons. Its basic meaning is to check the engine oil. And once this light turns on, this should be one of your top priorities. You might be tempted to try and learn how to reset the oil change light and how to reset the oil light, as well as how to reset oil life early on.
Immediately check the engine oil because you can have a big leak and if you drive like this, this will result in engine damage.
What is worth noting is that this light could also turn because of low or high oil pressure. These are otherwise referred to as the oil pressure light or the low oil pressure light. And these are also two bad situations in your engine. This means that you should immediately address the problem and not drive until the issue is sorted out.
You should never ignore the oil light (or cheat by figuring out how to reset the oil light) and always make sure that you address the problem before the problem eventually destroys your engine. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #4: Engine Temperature Light
Next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the engine temperature light. The engine temperature light is also a really important light that you need to make sure that you know about.
This is the case because this light tells you that you have a high engine temperature. As you probably know, engine temperatures should be up to the factory’s recommended spec.
If the temperatures are too high, the engine temperature light will turn on. This means that your car’s engine is overheating.
So, in these situations is important to stop and make sure that you leave your engine to cool off. This overheating issue is very often caused by overloading the vehicle, driving uphill, or if you left the car without coolant.
And if your car is run like this for a long time, it could result in engine damage. The head can warp and the head gasket will fail.
This is why we strongly recommend being aware of the temperatures in your car and never allowing it to overheat. This way, you will avoid paying thousands of dollars in order to get the car fixed. And you definitely don’t want that. Now let’s move on to the next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #5: Door Lights
Next on our list of dashboard symbols and meanings is the door light. So, what is the door light?
Well, the door light, fortunately, is not a problem. This is just information for you that the door of the car is open.
This is a very useful thing to have. Mainly because we people sometimes are very forgetful and you don’t want to drive with the door not closed correctly.
Also, besides the door light on the dash, there is also often a beeping sound to remind you that the door is still open. Just in case you don’t see the light on the cluster.
So, never ignore the door light on the cluster and always close your door. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #6: Handbrake Light
The next symbol in our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the handbrake light. So what is a handbrake light?
Well, this is a light that informs you that the handbrake is activated. This light is a red circle with two lines on the sides and a big exclamation sign in the center.
This is a really important light because you don’t want to drive off with your handbrake on. Otherwise, make sure you learn how to take off the e-brake. Since if you do so, you will damage the rear pads and rotors.
The car will also struggle a lot to get up to speed. And this is a mistake that a lot of people to when they start driving, including me. I remember that I forgot my handbrake more than a few times until I finally figured it out.
The important thing is to monitor the cluster and try to remind yourself that you should disengage the parking brake every time you want to drive off, this way, you will never going to forget. And as your experience as a driver increases, this would turn into a habit.
Now let’s move on to the next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #7: Airbag Indicator
Another on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the airbag indicator. So, what does this airbag indicator mean?
Well, this is a special light that indicates a malfunction of the airbag system. The airbag system as you probably know implements inflatable air balloons. There are charges that activate the airbags and these airbags immediately inflate.
And once the airbags are activated you will get the airbag light until you replace them. But if your airbags are not activated, then you probably have some other problem.
There could be a defective airbag, or there can be a problem with the SRS module (in which case you’ll notice an SRS light) or crash sensors. So, when you have an airbag indicator and you didn’t crash, you should take things seriously and try to solve the problem. In short, you’ll need to figure out how to reset the airbag light.
Mainly because of your own safety. Just imagine that you are a participant in a collision and your airbag does not activate. So, having this system in proper working order is always a smart idea. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #8: Seat Belt Light
The next in our car dashboard symbols and meanings is the seat belt light. So, what is the seat belt light?
Well, this is a light that tells you that the seat belt is not attached. So, you enter the car, start the engine and drive off, this light will be on if you don’t secure yourself with the seat belt.
Also, in some cars, there will be a beeping sound if you don’t secure your seat belt. It really depends on the situation.
Also, another reason why the seat belt light can be on is the situation if the car was previously in a collision. So, when this happens, the seat belt simply activates, and then it has to be repaired since this seat belt will not want to retract.
You will have to repair the seat belt and reset the codes if you want to return the normal function of the seat belts on your car and turn off the seat belt light. Now let’s move on to the next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #9: ABS Light
Well, the ABS light is a special light that is there to inform you that your ABS system is on or has malfunctioned. So, how you can tell if the ABS is on or malfunctioned? Well, that is a good question.
Whenever the ABS light is on, you will notice, the ABS will grip and release the brakes a few times and the car will come to a stop. During this procedure, the ABS light will be present.
On the other hand, when the system malfunctions, you will have the ABS light on, all of the time. So, beware of this situation.
The ABS light on is often caused by a bad ABS pump, bad ABS module (which accounts for the high replacement cost), or possibly a bad wheel speed sensor or a bad tone ring. When you have ABS light on all the time, the light means that you have a problem and this problem needs sorting out. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #10: Traction Or Stability Control
The next symbol in our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the traction control light. So, what is a traction control light?
Well, every modern car has a built-in traction control (for more insight, check out our guide on how to turn off traction control) that is there to keep you safe on the road. This system notes if one of the wheels that deliver power is spinning and then this system tells the other wheel to activate in order for the car not to lose control.
This system also has a special light that turns on when this system is engaging. As well as when you deactivate the system on purpose. After all, there are benefits of turning the traction control off. Or a situation when the system has malfunctioned, such as noticing a “TRAC OFF” light in a Lexus or the “Service ESC” message in a Chevy Malibu.
This system is very similar to the ABS. Both of them are regulated by the wheel speed sensors. And these sensors are often the causes of this problem. Now let’s move on to the next car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #11: Tire Pressure Light
Next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meanings is the tire pressure light. So, what is a tire pressure light on your car?
Well, a tire pressure light in general is a light that indicates low tire pressure. So, what does low tire pressure mean? Modern cars are running tire pressure sensors on each wheel. So, when they notice a low tire pressure, the sensor will inform them that your tire pressure is low.
This means that you should take your car to the nearest gas station and top them off with compressed air. Also, sometimes these sensors can malfunction internally and cause the light to be on all the time. In other words, you’re experiencing a tire pressure sensor fault, meaning you have a faulty TPMS sensor (you can diagnose this further by learning how to reset TPMS).
So, if you notice this, it is important to react quickly and tackle the problem by replacing the faulty pressure sensor.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #12: Glow Plugs Active
Next on our list of car dashboard symbols and meaning is the situation when you have a diesel car and you notice a symbol that resembles a spring. So, what does this mean?
Well, this means that the glow plugs on your diesel engine are active. They turn on in very cold weather to allow the engine to start. What is important to note is that glow plugs are not spark plugs. Spark plugs are different designs used on gas-powered engines.
Nevertheless, the glow plugs when active will show the light (make sure you’re also aware of how many spark plugs does a diesel have). And when they deactivate will turn the light off. If the light is on, then you probably have a faulty glow plug in your car.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings #13: Fog Lights, High Beam, And Low Beam Light
Another light that will often turn on when you engage the fog lights is the fog light. As you probably know these are the lights that you turn in foggy conditions.
So, the car will inform you once you engage these lights, just as well as when you engage the low beam and high beam lights. We listed all three lights in this chapter since all of them engage whenever you engage a specific light. Now let’s conclude this article on the car dashboard symbols and meanings.
Dashboard Symbols And Meanings: In Conclusion…
In this article, we covered quite a bit when it comes to car dashboard symbols and meanings. First, we learned what are dashboard lights. We learned that these lights deliver crucial information for the driver. Without them, driving would be a lot more difficult. They are the perfect driver’s aid.
In the second part of the article, we covered the car dashboard symbols. We covered the most common ones. There are other symbols as well. But these are the ones that you will see the most in your car.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now let’s answer some frequently asked questions.
What Does Check Engine Light Mean
The check engine light is a light that indicates a problem. The check engine light only turns on if there are problems with some of the sensors or there is some kind of abnormal engine work.
What Does It Mean When Your Engine Light Come On
This means that you have a problem and you should take your car to the shop as soon as possible. This is the case because the problem has to be properly diagnosed with a scanner.
Can You Drive With The Check Engine Light On
Yes, you can drive with the check engine light on. For some problems that are really minor, driving like this does not play a big role. But if the problem is caused by something more serious it can have a bad effect on the engine’s life.
What Does Service Traction Control Mean
This means that you have a problem with the traction control. The system has to be serviced and the problem to be sorted out. If you don’t service your car, the traction control might not work when needed.
What Does ESP Mean In A Car
ESP is the electronic stability program. This system in other words is the traction control on your car. ESP is generally present in older Chrysler, Dodge, and Mercedes Benz cars.
What Does Range Mean In A Car
Range refers to the number of miles that you have left with the current gas level. Or for the current battery level in your car. The car computer evaluates how many miles can you travel before you end up with an empty fuel tank or battery.