Warning and other symbols on your car

Warning and other symbols on your car

The cars these days are backed up with technology like nothing before. Especially, the digital technology. With the advent of cheaper silicon IC chips and sensors, even entry level cars are equipped like a F1 Race Car a decade ago.

These days cars are backed up with technology like nothing before. Especially, the digital technology. With the advent of cheaper silicon IC chips and sensors, even entry level cars are equipped like a F1 Race Car a decade ago.              










As the owner or the driver of a car, it’s of utmost important that you understand what these cars dashboard lights and messages on the information screen mean.

This could just be a false warning or a serious life-threatening one. But, if you concern about the safety of you and the passengers, you must know to interpret them and act. This can be easier in higher end models which come with more advanced onboard computers that will provide you with more specific and understandable information. But, most of the cars are not so advanced, but they are intelligent enough to point to a brief list of factors. All the lights that blink on the dashboard are not warning lights. Look close and you’ll learn that the dashboard gives you almost every critical information about your vehicle.

Let’s take a brief look at what these indicator lights mean and what you should be doing.

Lighting Indicators and Symbols

These are very harmless and nothing to worry about. They give information about the lights on your vehicle. 

These indicators generally include:

  • Dipped Beam or Low Passing Beam
  • Main Beam or High Beam
  • Driving Lamps or Long-Range Lamps
  • Fog Lamps (front and rear)
  • Position Lamps or Parking Lamps
  • Day-Time Running Lamps
  • Car Indicators Lights 
  • Hazard Lamps (special vehicles)

Dipped Beam/Low Passing Beam

This indicates that the headlights are turned on and the beam is a low one. It’s recommended that you drive on low lamps when not on a Highway and doesn’t require longer-range view.


Main Beam/High Beam

This indicates that the headlights are operating on High Beam or Parallel Beam. This gives a good visibility over a good range of distance.


Long-Range Lamps/Driving Beam

These lamps are more of a projector lights, covering the maximum range and visibility. They are not very common in lower end vehicles.



Fog Lamps

There are two fog lamps, Front Fog Lamps and Rear Fog Lamps. The former is more common in most countries. Rear Fog Lamps are not present in every vehicle. But it might be mandatory as per the laws of the respective countries.
The Rear Fog Lamp is indicated generally in yellow and the beam direction is reversed.

Parking Lamps/Position Lamps

These lamps are technically the turn indicators flashing together on most of the vehicles to indicate the vehicle is parking or going to park. This might or might not be present in low end cars but if not a dedicated symbol, both the turn indicators will flash. Often it’s accompanied by a periodic clicking noise.


Day-Time Running Lamps

These are very less likely to be present on the lower end of the vehicle class. Most substitute a low-beam lamp or a fog-lamp whenever this is needed. If the car has day-time running lamps, an indicator that represents those LEDs will be glowing.

Turn Indicators/Turn Signals

This is something everybody is familiar with. Every single vehicle manufactured since half a century has the turn signals. They might be separate, indicating which one is blinking or may be just a single one to indicate that one of the turn lights are blinking. It’s also accompanied by a periodic clicking noise in most vehicles.


Hazard Lamps

These are very uncommon on a normal vehicle, but many vehicles come with a separate switch and connection to add Hazard Lamps. 
This is a special indicator; it usually comes from factory on a special vehicle such as a Police Vehicle or an Ambulance which indicates that the Hazard Lamps are turned on.

Minor Warning Symbols:

These symbols are warnings, not a very serious one but it might in the long run, get serious. It’s best to know what these are and get them rectified. 


Doors Open/Trunk Open/Bonnet Open

These may be represented by a single ‘door ajar’ warning light or three separate warning symbols depending on your Car’s make. You must stop and check if all doors are closed including the bonnet and the trunk, just in case.


Battery Charging Malfunction

This light will always be glowing for sometime after you start your car, till your engine is running and the alternator is working. If it doesn’t stop then your battery might soon run out of charge and your car won’t run. It’s recommended that you get it rectified as soon as you can. Else you might have to call a tow truck!

Wipers Malfunction/Wiper Fluid Level Low

This indicates if the Fluid level for the wiper wash is low or the wipers get stuck.


Engine Oil Level Low

This might flash for a few seconds even after the engine stars. But, if you are seeing it for more, it’s time to refill the engine oil. Else serious damage can happen.


Key Not in Vehicle

It’s pretty self-explanatory. It will flash if it don’t detect key inserted. You know what to do.


Seat Belt Buckles Malfunction

This will flash if the seat belts are not on and the engine is running. If that’s not the case, you must check the buckles to make sure.



Low Fuel Level

It’s self explanatory. Almost every Car has a low fuel indicator. You must consider fuel refill or you can halt in couple of miles.


Check Engine

It illuminates when the Engine Computer has detected some error. You’ll have to head to a mechanic with professional kit to know what caused it if it doesn’t disappear soon.


Service Vehicle Soon

Just reminds you that your vehicle needs a service soon to avoid any possible issues that might arise.


Gas Cap

It reminds that you’ve got a not properly sealed fuel tank cap which might result in leak of gasoline, especially in a hot day. It can also light the Engine Check symbol if not closed soon enough.


Lamp Out

This glows when one or more of the external lamps aren’t working. You must check this ASAP if you’re planning on a night ride.


Glow Plug

It’s applicable to Diesel Vehicles. It will glow till the engine is warm enough to start. You can’t start the engine till these go off.



Reduced Power Warning

It’s a message from the Engine Computer saying that the engine is not able to provide maximum power. This might be a minor one but it’s recommended that you head to the Service Centre before any further trouble comes up.


Security Alert

Indicates the car was accessed without using the key physically. If it still glows after starting the engine using the key, the security system is at fault.

Major / Serious Warning Signals

These warnings are something you should consider as immediate ones. Wherever you’re heading, change the plans. Drop your car for a service and take the sub-way or a bus. These warnings could mean serious trouble, and it’s not safe to travel in it.


Brake System

It is a very serious one, can range from drop in fluid pressure to wear of the brake pads. Get to a service centre as soon as possible and drive slowly.


Engine Cooling System/High Temperature Warning

This will glow if the engine gets too hot. If it was a long ride, take a rest for some time. Else, check the coolant level. Even if that’s not the case, get professional help.



Power Steering Malfunction

This light illuminates when the power steering system is not normal. Be careful with the handling if this glows. Drive slowly and get professional help soon.


ABS Malfunction

The ABS prevents your car from drifting no matter how hard you press the brake pedal. If this is faulty, you are at a high risk.



Tire Pressure Warning

It will light if anyone of the tires undergo pressure drop. It could be a sign of puncture. Stop the car and check ASAP.



Engine Oil Pressure

This is even worse than high temperature. If the oil pressure is low, there are good chances for pistons to seize and cause permanent damage.


Traction Control/ESP Malfunction

This prevents your car from skidding. If it glows, stay on asphalt and head to your service centre.


Transmission Temperature Warning

It glows when the transmission fluid is at higher temperature than optimum. If exceeds a lot, can cause serious damage.



Air Bag Malfunction

When the computer senses trouble with the Air bag module, this light will flash. As it’s a matter of safety, you must get it checked ASAP and drive carefully. 



DPF Light

This is applicable for diesel engines. It glows when Diesel Exhaust Particulate Filter is malfunctioning. It not only releases poisonous gases but also will result it engine damage if untreated.



DEF Light

This will glow when the Diesel Exhaust Fluid is low. You have to refill before it causes damage to the engine and environment.


Other Indication Symbols and Information

These are nothing to worry about. They are just to acknowledge you that they are working or are in operation. They might also suggest you what to do sometimes.


Adaptive Cruise Control

This indicates that the adaptive cruise control is active.


Cruise Control

This will be lit when the Cruise Control is activated by you.



Lane Assist

It assists you with staying in a lane and glows when activated.


Convertible Roof

It’s self-explanatory. It will glow when the Convertible roof is activated.



Rear Spoiler

It will be illuminated when the Rear Spoiler is activated. Offers better stability and down force.



Automatic Gear Box Active

It will light once you shift from Manual to Automatic Transmission.



Rain and Light Sensor 

It’s not yet widely applied in lower end. But will glow when it’s active or when it detects Rain or Low light. Make sure they are properly working; else your car can go berserk with lights and wipers.

If your car has more advanced systems and a screen console you don’t have to worry about interpreting, it will display the entire information. But if it has an instrument panel and uses other than ISO symbols, go through the User Manual that came along with the vehicle.
It’s very important that you understand your ride and its warning symbols well, to keep it running in good condition and protect yourself and the public from possible mishaps.

RELATED ARTICLES View all articles