Is That Your Check Engine Light Flashing on the Dashboard?


News Flash: Failing to acknowledge a flashing light on your dashboard can get you stranded in the middle of nowhere or stuck on the side of a busy highway. If that’s your check engine light showing, for example, it can be really bad news for you.

Related: Car Warning Lights Resource Centre

The good news is you can save yourself from the extra costs (and the humiliation) by paying attention to the flashing light on your dash and knowing what it’s trying to tell you. Ignorance is no defence as some engine problems can have very serious consequences.

Investing in a simple and affordable OBD2 Diagnostics app such as GOFAR is the quickest and easiest way to be prepared when it counts. GOFAR scans your car systems every 2 seconds and gives you the error codes in plain English right to your smartphone via the GOFAR app.

But back to those dreaded lights…

Read on for a quick and easy rundown of some of the most common check engine light warnings and what they mean.

Front Airbag is Switched Off

Front airbag warning light

If this light symbol doesn’t go off after starting the car, there’s a possibility that the front airbag is switched off or the entire airbag system has a problem. Take it for a check-up at your local car dealership. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Alternator or Battery Issues

Battery warning light

This symbol means the battery or alternator has problems that need fixing. Check the condition of your battery including the battery terminals. Also have the alternator checked, pay close attention to the electrodes that they are in good working condition. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Problem with ABS

ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) warning light

There’s a problem with the brake system. Quick. Seek professional assistance to diagnose and fix this issue. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Handbrake is on

Handbrake light

This symbol is communicating that you have a troubling issue with your hand brake. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Could be:

  • Your parking brakes are on
  • Your braking system has an issue
  • Fluid in the braking system is low
  • There’s an ABS problem
  • Or, you have a diagnostics issue and the light needs to be reset

Cooling System Issues

Cooling system warning light

The most likely cause for this light is abnormal engine temperature. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Check the following:

  • Coolant levels
  • Radiator cap
  • Check for coolant leaks
  • Test your fan operation

Low Level of Windscreen Fluid

Low windscreen fluid light

When this symbol pops up on your dash, you need to refill your washer fluid reservoir. The reservoir is usually located under the hood at the front of your vehicle. In some vehicles it is housed in the front passenger foot well. Refill with a mixture of water and glass cleaning liquid to ensure every driver has good visibility through a clean windscreen. You can reset the dashboard light be either refilling the reservoir or using a diagnostics app.

Check Engine Light

The dreaded check engine light

This is the infamous check engine light. The reasons for it to come on are varied. It could be as simple as a loose fuel cap you forgot to fasten after a fuel up.

On the other hand, it could mean more serious engine issues such as a faulty catalytic converter, a bad oxygen sensor, a failing mass air flow sensor, among others.

Get more detail in our comprehensive Check Engine Light guide.

Rear Fog Lights Switched On

Rear fog light indicator

Is it foggy outside or you just forgot to switch off your fog light because this symbol means your fog lights are still on. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map


Low fuel warning light

This is a common symbol warning you that your fuel tank levels are low. Refill your tank with fuel. Interestingly, the little arrow next to the fuel gauge shows the side of the vehicle where your car fuel tank is located. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Low Oil or Oil Pressure

Oil warning light

This symbol means either your oil levels are diminishing or the oil pressure system has an issue. Take note this light design may vary depending on the car model or manufacturer.

It is simple to change your car’s engine oil. However, if you suspect a complicated issue with the oil pressure system, like a leak, it is advisable to consult a certified mechanic. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Pressure Issues

Pressure warning light

This is a tyre pressure monitoring system symbol. It means the pressure on one of your car’s tyres is getting low or there’s a sensor malfunction. Check the tire pressure. Depending on your car model, you can rest the warning light or have a professional diagnosis. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Traction Control System Malfunction

TCS (Traction Control System) warning light

The symbol means your anti-skid system is faulty. Traction control maintains a vehicle’s grip in slick conditions.

Often, the light comes on when the weather is rainy or snowy. It is dangerous to attempt driving when the TCS light is on. Let a certified mechanic check it out. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Fasten Your Seatbelt

Seatbelt warning light

When you see this symbol, it is a reminder to fasten your seatbelt. It will go off once you buckle up. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Push Brake Pedal

Push brake pedal indicator

When you see this light indicator, you’ll need to engage the brake by getting out of neutral or starting your car’s ignition. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Here’s what may cause the light to illuminate:

  • A burnt out brake light
  • Low battery voltage
  • Parking brake stuck on
  • Brake pads low on material
  • Low brake fluid in the reservoir
  • Anti-lock brake (ABS) sensor malfunction

Security Light

Car security warning light

This is a security light that indicates that the cat’s anti-theft system has been compromised. It may also mean that you need the right key and transponder to ignite the car. Get Diagnostics App or View All Dashboard Lights Map

Bottom line

Car warning lights vary by colour to indicate the severity of a mechanical or system issue.

  • Red warning Light: The issue is very serious and should be attended to by a certified professional. Red light also reminds you of an upcoming car maintenance.
  • Yellow/Orange Light: It means a component needs servicing or repair. If it’s flashing treat it with urgency.
  • Green and Blue Light: This serves as a reminder that the system is actively operation well.

Not all dashboard symbols and car warning lights are universal; they vary by the car’s model or make. Some cars and trucks or high-end vehicles are fitted with more exotic systems.

Over time and with the increase in newer vehicle models, the number of car light symbols keeps increasing.

So it’s advisable to keep your owner’s manual within easy reach to help you decipher these warning signs.

Or an even better idea: just use GOFAR to get alerts on all your car issues in plain English.

GOFAR detects over 300 common car issues and delivers easy to understand explanations on the mobile app.

Forget memorising all the car light symbols, because GOFAR has you covered.

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