What do my dashboard warning lights mean?

Car warning lights
  • 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 or call NRMA motoring advice on 13 11 22 

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, call roadside assistance or ask your NRMA car service centre 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 at NRMA car servicing 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

Do you have any motoring related questions that you would like us to answer? Our motoring advice team provides professional advice for NRMA Members. You can reach the team on 13 11 22 from Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 5.00pm.

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