We’ve all been there: You are driving along a remote national road, somewhere between Ficksburg and Ladybrand in the Free State. You are enjoying the views of the cherry orchards and the flat sandstone mountains, when, and all of a sudden, you hear a beep. You look down and an illuminated symbol on your dashboard. You start to wonder what could be wrong, and, given the remoteness of your location, how urgently it needs to be dealt with. 
These strange hieroglyphics vary from vehicle to vehicle, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for specific information about your vehicle. In general, though, the colour of the illuminated symbol indicates the level of urgency. 
A red warning light demands immediate attention. (Do not drive any further. Do not proceed to Bloemfontein. Do not pass begin or collect R200). Yellow and orange warning lights indicate a problem that needs to be serviced soon. Green and Blue lights are usually not a warning at all, but ‘information’ lights, telling the driver which car functions are currently in use. 
In this article, we will look at the meanings of some of the more critical warning lights, which portend a serious malfunction. It’s important to know exactly what they mean in case you need to pull over and call for help. 
Keep in mind, every time you turn on your vehicle, may warning lights illuminate as the system does a self-check. If these lights go away immediately, your system is in working order. 


The oil pressure warning light indicates a loss of oil pressure, meaning lubrication is low or lost completely. Either you’re running low on oil or there is a leak in your system, or your oil pump isn’t circulating enough fluid to properly lubricate the surfaces inside your vehicle. 


What to do: Do not drive while this light is illuminated! If you see this light come on while driving, stop the car as soon as it is safe to do so.You should check your motor oil level and pressure as soon as you can. If that doesn’t get the light to turn off, have your vehicle checked out by a professional mechanic before you do any more damage to your vehicle.


To put it simply, if you see this light, it means your engine has overheated, son!Some cars may not have a specific engine warning light. You may only have a temperature gauge with a red section (H) at the highest end of the gauge. If the needle enters the red section, the engine is overheating and should be stopped as soon as safely possible. Other times, an “engine overheating” or “temp”message will illuminate, sometimes alternating with a flashing radiator or fan icon. 


What to do:Never drive with an overheating engine! Stop driving as soon as you possibly can and switch off the engine to allow the engine to cool. 


If the engine temperature warning light comes on again, you probably have a problem with your coolant,radiator, or water pump. Drive the car at a low speed to your local mechanic.


The battery light indicates that the car’s charging system is short of power or is not charging properly. It normally indicates a problem with the battery itself or the alternator. This can lead to electrical problemsinvolving your power steering, braking, lights, and engine. 


What to do: Take your vehicle in to get serviced as soon as you can. Most likely, you just need to replace your battery. Other causes may include wiringproblems, a faulty alternator, or a faulty battery.


This warning light illuminates when there is a problem with your brakes. You may also see a light that says “Brake.” This can indicate that the parking brake isapplied, there is low brake fluid, or the brake system needs to be inspected immediately. 


If the light only comes on when you are pressing down on the brake pedal, you may have a problem with your hydraulic circuits (bad hose, leaky disk calliper, or something else). If the pedal feels loose or goes to the floor, pull the vehicle over as soon as safely possible. 


If both the ABS and Brake Light Warning lights come on, you could have a seriously dangerous problem with your brakes. Stop the car as soon as safely possible and get your brake system inspected. 


What to do: Check the brake fluid and make sure the parking brake isn’t on. Adding brake fluid to the master cylinder reservoir may temporarily solve the problem. But if there's a leak, the new fluid will soon be lost, and the warning light will come back on. 


If adding brake fluid and releasing the parking brake doesn’t turn the light off, have the brake systeminspected immediately. 


The antilock brake system regulates brake pressure to prevent wheels from locking during braking. If the ABS is not working properly, the wheels may lock up and cause a dangerous driving situation. 


If the ABS light remains on, the antilock brake system needs professional diagnosis. Sometimes the warning light is only text, such as “Antilock” or “ABS.” 


In some vehicles, the ABS warning is red. In others, it is yellow or orange.In some vehicles, the ABS turns on when the antilock brake system is active. If it remains on, however, ABS safety features have been turned off. 


What to do: If the ABS light stays lit, a malfunction in your antilock brake system has been detected. Have your vehicle professionally serviced as soon as you can


This light indicates that your vehicle’s traction control system might have a broken or damaged sensor or some other malfunction. In some cars, the same control module operates the anti-lock brakes and the traction control system, so the light sometimes comes on when there are problems with your ABS. 


What to do: Continue driving but take extra care that your car’s assistive traction systems may not be working. That means no Le Mans cornering, harsh acceleration or braking. Take extra care in slippery and wet conditions and have your vehicle professionally serviced as soon as you can.


Your check engine light may appear for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it can indicate a serious issue and require you to pull over immediately. This could indicate low oil pressure or overheating. Other times, this light will appear if your fuel cap is open, loose, or cracked, causing fuel to evaporate. 


There is one big criticism of the check engine light system, which is that when it comes on, it doesn't really tell the driver enough. Since the range of problems that can cause the light to activate is so broad, drivers don't know what to do when they see the light. 


What to do: If this light stays on, or if drive delicately at moderate speeds (slow acceleration and deceleration) until you can get your car to a mechanic. It can be very dangerous and damaging to drive while the check engine light is flashing! 


The airbag indicator signals that something is wrong with one of your airbags or the system as a whole. Your car’s airbags keep you safe during accidents, so it’s important to address this issue immediately. 


What to do: If the airbag light does not illuminate when you turn the ignition, continues to flash, or stays illuminated, one or more of your airbags are malfunctioning. Take the vehicle in for service immediately. 

There you have it! These are some of the most common lights you’ll see on your dashboard. For completions’ sake, we have compiled a comprehensive list of other common lights and their meanings, below:



If you’ve got any further questions, contact your local mechanic and discuss your concerns with them. While mechanics can’t usually diagnose a problem without seeing and working on your car, they should be able to offer general advice on next steps and the urgency of your situation.