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Car Warning Lights You Shouldn’t Ignore

Jan. 10, 2020
3 mins
Professional couple in grey vehicle

Nowadays, vehicles have more bells, whistles, and technology than ever before, including so many warning lights your car’s dashboard may be as colourful as a video game.

It can be easy to ignore them, but doing so may spell trouble for your car, truck, or SUV if you do. Worse, ignoring them completely may prove costly as well as compromise your safety behind the wheel.

Although all the different dashboard warning lights in your vehicle serve a purpose, some are more important than others. Paying heed to them can help you avoid an expensive repair and possibly a collision if your vehicle does not perform properly. It’s safe to say steering clear of a car accident is beneficial if you want to get the lowest auto insurance rate possible.

The Most Important Car Warning Lights

While there may be differences between dashboard warning lights, the ones below are consistent across most makes and models, and they are among the most important to pay attention to:

  • Oil pressure light. Without oil in your car’s engine, you will not get very far. If you ensure your vehicle receives oil and filter changes regularly, it is unusual for the oil pressure icon to light up unless there’s a possible leak. If your vehicle runs dry of oil, it will seize up and potentially destroy the engine.
  • Engine coolant light. Think of engine coolant as the lifeblood of your vehicle. Also known as antifreeze, coolant prevents your car’s radiator from overheating in the summer and freezing in the winter. If the engine coolant icon on the dashboard brightens, the radiator may be low on coolant, or the situation may be more serious. Regardless, this icon warns you the engine is overheating, which can cause major damage. Pull over and get off of the road, but do not attempt to check the coolant level in your vehicle’s radiator until the engine is sufficiently cool or the steam from the radiator will burn you.
  • Battery light. Your car’s charging system contains three components: an alternator, voltage regulator, and the battery. If the battery icon illuminates, it may indicate a range of potential issues from the battery needing replacement to a problem with the alternator, the alternator belt or voltage regulator. Your vehicle will not start if the vehicle charging system fails.
  • Fuel light. If your vehicle runs on gasoline and the fuel icon on the dashboard lights up, you need to find a refuelling station soon. Most vehicles will not tell you how far you can drive before you entirely run out of gas, but do you want to tempt the hand of fate and find out how far it can go before it stalls?
  • Tire pressure light. If the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires is low, that poses a significant risk to driving safely, especially during the winter months. Low tire pressure can also cost you more in fuel since it affects how much gas your vehicle burns. Pull into a service station and increase the tire pressure, but consult your owner’s manual first to learn what the maximum tire pressure for your vehicle is.

In general, review your owner’s manual, visit your vehicle’s dealership, or talk to an auto technician if you are uncertain as to what any warning light on your car’s dashboard means.

Get the Auto Insurance Policy You Want

Did you know is a free-to-use quoting tool that can provide you with auto insurance rates from more than 30 insurance companies in just a few clicks? Give it a try and find out how much you may save on your auto insurance.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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