Know your dashboard warning lights

By David Bonnici, 15 Nov 2016 Car Advice

Dashboard icons

It’s no fun when your dashboard lights up like a Christmas tree, but what do those warning lights mean?

Your car’s dashboard has a myriad of icons which light up to either let you know something is operating or to warn you when something has gone wrong.

The average car has around 25 dashboard icons, while feature packed cars such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class can have more than 40. The more complex the car, the more potential there is for mechanical or electronic carnage.

While many annunciator lights are easily recognisable, some icons are specific to certain cars, such as diesels and hybrids or four-wheel-drives. To add to the confusion there are also many new icons introduced along with new technology such as driver assist functions.

The first thing to take note is the colour as not all lights signify a problem. Red means something that requires immediate attention ranging from a door being open to low oil pressure, that can damage your car engine. In any case stop the car immediately and attend to the problem.

Orange usually signifies something that requires monitoring, such as low fuel, while green, blue and white generally show when something is switched on or operating automatically.

Think of it like traffic lights where red means stop, orange is caution, and green is go.

Here's an extensive list of dashboard icons below.

Dashboard icon

  1. Front Fog light on (can also be green)
  2. Power steering fluid low
  3. Rear fog light on
  4. Windscreen washer fluid low
  5. Brake pad warning
  6. Cruise control on
  7. Direction indicators
  8. Rain and light sensor problem
  9. Winter driving 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 (to car in front)
  17. Press clutch pedal to start car
  18. Press brake pedal
  19. Steering lock warning
  20. Highbeam headlights on
  21. Tyre pressure low
  22. Side/parking lights on
  23. Exterior light fault
  24. Brake light fault
  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 in an occupied seat
  31. Park brake is engaged
  32. Battery/Alternator warning
  33. Parking assist
  34. Car due for service
  35. Adaptive lighting
  36. Headlight range control
  37. Rear spoiler warning
  38. Convertible roof warning
  39. Airbag warning
  40. Brake warning
  41. Water in fuel filter
  42. Airbag deactivated
  43. Fault problem
  44. Dipped beam headlights on
  45. Air filter needs cleaning/replacement
  46. Eco driving mode engaged
  47. Hill decent control
  48. Temperature warning
  49. ABS warning
  50. Fuel filter warning
  51. Door open
  52. Bonnet open
  53. Low fuel
  54. Automatic transmission warning
  55. Speed limiter engaged
  56. Suspension damper warning
  57. Oil pressure low
  58. Windscreen defrost
  59. Boot open
  60. Stability/traction control (can be yellow)
  61. Rain sensor
  62. Check engine (serious if red).  
  63. Rear window defrost
  64. Auto windscreen wiper engaged