The lights on your car’s dashboard instrument cluster are there to communicate with you. Communication is a great thing, even when, as in this case, it’s a one-way street.
Why do you need to “talk” with your car? You probably don’t, but you do need to listen and understand what your vehicle is communicating to you. When you first power up your car, all the dash lights should come on. Once you start the engine, the lights should go off as the vehicle goes through a self-test of its systems. What if a light stays on? Why are some lights green, yellow or red?
Let’s start with first understanding what the different colors are telling you about your vehicle’s operation. I like to keep it simple, just remember the colors of traffic lights and what they mean.
If a dashboard light is red, stop your car immediately. There is potential for serious damage to your vehicle’s operation. Most owner’s manuals will instruct to have your vehicle towed to your servicing facility. I cannot emphasize strongly enough to follow your owner’s manual. You would not intentionally drive through a red traffic light, would you?
If it’s a yellow light, your vehicle is telling you something is not operating as designed. However, you do not need to stop immediately and have the vehicle towed. The yellow light illumination is designed to catch your attention to enable you to take corrective action in the near future.
If it’s a green light, it simply means something is turned on, that’s all. No need to worry or stress that your vehicle may not get you to where you’re headed.
Now that you have identified the color of the lamp, and understand its urgency, let’s move on to the next step of understanding what each light means. It can be simple to understand what component the light is referring to if you follow a few easy steps.
First, do you recognize the symbol that’s illuminated, such as an oil can, battery or engine? If not, look in your owner’s manual and turn to the page that describes your instrument panel. There, you will find a simple index that corresponds to the location of the various operating systems that are being monitored on your vehicle. Once you have identified the light, go back to the owner’s manual index to look up that specific component if you require additional information.
By Danny Branom, contributing writer and owner/operator of Christian Brothers Automotive in Towne Lake.