What do the warning lights on my car dashboard mean?

What do my dashboard warning lights mean Check Engine
What do my dashboard warning lights mean check engine
Members save 10% off repairs* 
Key take outs
  • A red warning light on the instrument panel indicates a serious car problem or a safety issue and should be checked straightaway
  • The cause of an orange warning light should be checked as soon as you're able
  • Consult the owner’s manual for explanation

The electronic system in today's cars relies on a series of sensors – these sensors can also tell you if there's something wrong with your car using warning symbols on the dashboard.

There are two types of warning lights – red and orange. A red warning light suggests that you should act quickly because the problem is serious, such as an overheating engine, low engine oil pressure or a braking system problem.

An orange warning light means that the engine management system – the computer that runs the engine – has detected a fault. You may continue to drive, but you should take your car to your local service centre for diagnosis and repair as soon as possible.

It’s important to pay attention to car dashboard warning lights because they can help you avoid a car breakdown, as well as potentially saving you from an expensive repair bill and keeping you safe on the road.

If a red or orange warning light appears on your dash, don’t ignore it. Instead, pull over somewhere safe and look up what it means in your owner’s manual.

If you’re not sure what the problem is, ask your NRMA mobile mechanic or vehicle manufacturer for advice.

If a light momentarily illuminates then disappears, there may not be a problem, but it is a good idea to get it checked out by our mobile mechanics for peace of mind.

The most common car warning lights

dashboard warning lights

  1. Fog light (front)

  2. Power steering warning light

  3. Fog light (rear)

  4. Washer fluid low

  5. Brake pad warning

  6. Cruise control on

  7. Direction indicators

  8. Rain and light sensor

  9. Winter mode

  10. Information indicator

  11. Glow plug/diesel pre-heat warning

  12. Frost warning

  13. Ignition switch warning

  14. Key not in vehicle

  15. Key fob battery low

  16. Distance warning

  17. Press clutch pedal

  18. Press brake pedal

  19. Steering lock warning

  20. Main beam headlights

  21. Tyre pressure low

  22. Sidelight information

  23. Exterior light fault

  24. Brake lights warning

  25. Diesel particulate filter warning

  26. Trailer tow hitch warning

  27. Air suspension warning

  28. Lane departure warning

  29. Catalytic converter warning

  30. Seat belt not on

  31. Parking brake light

  32. Battery/alternator warning

  33. Parking assist

  34. Service required

  35. Adaptive lighting

  36. Headlight range control

  37. Rear spoiler warning

  38. Convertible roof warning

  39. Airbag warning

  40. Handbrake warning

  41. Water in filter

  42. Airbag deactivated

  43. Fault problem

  44. Dipped beam headlights

  45. Dirty air filter

  46. Eco driving indicator

  47. Hill descent control

  48. Temperature warning

  49. ABS warning

  50. Fuel filter warning

  51. Door open

  52. Bonnet open

  53. Low fuel

  54. Automatic gearbox warning

  55. Speed limiter

  56. Suspension dampers

  57. Oil pressure low

  58. Windscreen defrost

  59. Boot open

  60. Stability control off

  61. Rain sensor

  62. Engine/emissions warning

  63. Rear window defrost

  64. Auto windscreen wiping

Stay safe on the roads and catch any issues as soon as possible, if you are unsure it's always safer to ask a professional.