Dashboard Indicator Light Trivia – by Scott Chazdon

By on October 13, 2011

Did you know that the dashboard lights on your car are color coded? Yep, just like traffic lights, the indicator lights have colored meanings.


Red : DANGER : Stop the car now and turn it off. Have it towed in. DO NOT DRIVE!


Yellow : CAUTION : Something that really should be looked at but it can wait until you schedule a visit to your mechanic.


Green : GO :Normaloperation and yet you need to know it is happening.



Examples? OK sure.


Red lights are low oil pressure, overheating, brakes and low electrical output. Any of these conditions are very dangerous for the health of your car and really should be avoided at all costs.


Contrary to what I have heard some believe, the red oil light is NOT a change oil indicator. If the red oil light comes on, chances are the engine is already damaged from lack of lubrication. If you stop the engine immediately it may be rescuable.


If the red coolant or temperature light comes on it means that your engine’s operating temperature is too far above normal. Excessive engine heat can warp heads, crack blocks, and even be at risk of catching on fire. Again if the red temperature light comes on, stop the engine immediately. You could save the engine and thousands of dollars.


If the red electrical light comes on it is not as critical as the previous lights but it does mean that there is a serious fault in the electrical system somewhere. The engine may be running fine right now but it won’t for long. Guaranteed. If you stop and get towed in you won’t stress the balance of the system and quite possible save a lot of money.


The yellow lights are typically of the check engine or SES (Service Engine Soon) variety.

Something has happened enough times or long enough that the car’s computer is saying you should have this checked out.  Not an emergency like red lights but if ignored these problems can lead to much more extensive damage.


On some modern cars there are upwards of 300 different things that can turn on a check engine or SES light. Really, it is pretty cool that you car monitors all this stuff so you can fix it cheap. Any gremlin left alone will just cost you more money later.


Green lights are usually turn signals or some other exterior light indicator. They are normal operation but it is nice to know that they are in use. Otherwise people may think you are going around the world to the left.


The only exception to these rules is a flashing check engine light. If the check engine light is blinking or flashing, stop the car. Something has really gone wrong and continued operation is ill advised.


So remember:


Green = Go

Yellow = Caution but not an emergency

Red = Stop! You are currently broken and ignoring this will only do more harm.

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