What that light on your dashboard means

Thursday April 16 2020

There are red and orange warning lig

There are red and orange warning lights on your dashboard and each has a message it delivers to the car owner. NET PHOTO  

By Joan Salmon

Driving a car involves more than moving it from one point to another. It also means being able to understand how different systems operate. Emma P’Odongo, a mechanic, adds that while you may not know everything, you must be able to know when something is not right.

One of the things to look out for are warning lights. “There are red and orange warning lights on your dashboard and each has a message it is delivering to the car owner,” P’Odongo shares.

He explains that a red warning light on your dashboard shows a safety issue or a serious car problem that needs immediate attention. On the other hand, an orange warning light brings to light a car issue that ought to be addressed straight away.

Godfrey Kigozi, a mechanic, adds that while one may continue driving, taking the vehicle for diagnosis and repair is important.

Kigozi advises drivers to pay attention to these warning lights as they save one from experiencing a total car breakdown which may mean more serious issues such as an engine knock that lead to very costly repairs.
That said, there are several dashboard lights and understanding them will do any car owner a lot of good.

What to look out for
First things first, Kigozi says that upon igniting your car, several lights will appear on your dashboard in various colours for a few seconds. “That is meant to show you that the systems they represent are working well. However, there are times when a light will stay on even as the engine runs. It is such lights that you need to look out for.”


P’Odongo adds that while most of these lights are common to all makes and models, there are some that are unique to some. That said, we will look at the common ones only. For the unique ones, looking at your car manual or consulting with a certified mechanic will be ideal.

Engine light
At times, this light will be followed by signs of a malfunctioning engine such as stuttering when the ignition key is turned on or lack of power, more so when climbing a hill. Kigozi says, when someone sees this light, immediate action should be taken even when everything seems okay.

“The light is a representation of several faults as small as a broken electrical sensor or as big as a faulty emission control system. Ignoring it could culminate in very costly repairs that you could easily have been avoided,” he advises.

Brake light
It is also called the brake fluid, parking brake or brake system warning light and P’Odongo says it should be taken seriously. “It could indicate that the handbrake was not properly released before one started driving. Therefore, check to ensure proper release,” he shares.

Should the light persist or reappear as you drive, then going to the garage is advisable as P’Odongo says the brake fluid levels maybe low or the brake pad wear sensor may be faulty.

“Ignoring the light may also mean the whole braking system is faulty which may cause you to rum into other road users. That is such a costly accident which can be avoided by seeking help early enough,” he advises.

Battery light
It is also called a battery charging system light and just like the others shows several things. “It may be a faulty battery, problems with the vehicle’s wiring or something connected. Nonetheless, it is important to note that without a properly functioning battery, several car parts such as the headlights, engine, brakes, and steering wheel will not work,” Kigozi shares.

While your vehicle may continue working using the charge the battery got previously, it will soon be drained. Therefore, Kigozi advises that you drive to a garage before that happens. “Otherwise, you may need breakdown services to get to a garage which is costly.”
Oil pressure light
It will light up once oil temperature is very high or the oil levels are low. Kigozi explains that oil pressure is generated by the amount of oil in the engine as well as by the oil pump that circulates the engine oil. “Therefore, a leak or fault on the pump can also cause the light to go on. If topping the oil to stabilize the levels does not get the light off, going to the garage is necessary. Otherwise, a serious damage to the engine may happen,” he says.

Low fuel level light
Many of us have seen this light severally hence it being almost self-explanatory. However, it is worth mentioning as it is one of the warning lights. While it may represent low fuel levels, P’Odongo says it could also represent a fuel leak. “One of the first places to check is the ground beneath your car, especially where you park at home or your work place. To save yourself the extra cost, visiting a garage is advisable so that the leak is fixed,” he advises.

Engine temperature light
Also known as coolant temperature light, this light comes up when the engine is very hot. P’Odongo says that this could translate to low coolant levels. “That might be caused by a leak or even head gasket failure. Getting on with your journey will be a wrong thing to do as your engine will suffer irreparable damage.

Pull to the side of the road and wait for the engine to cool. Open the bonnet and add some coolant, then check for possible leaks. If there are no visible leaks, you may go on with your journey. However, if any is seen, let your mechanic come and take the vehicle to the garage. The same goes for if the light comes back on,” he advises.

Seat belt light
It is one of the most ignored light yet worth paying attention to. Kigozi mentions that several accidents have happened because someone did not fasten their seatbelt. “Get into the habit of wearing your seatbelt before you begin your journey. It might be all there is to save your life,” he advises.

Door or bonnet, or boot light
While there is no mechanical fault represented by these lights, they let you know that one of the doors is loosely shut.