The colourful display on your dashboard may sometimes be confusing, but the illuminated symbols are designed to keep your car in working order and keep you safe.
Modern cars are crammed with sophisticated technology that many drivers take for granted.
From the moment you switch on the car’s ignition, all manner of mechanical and electronic components are at work out of sight.
Some features actively help you drive. Modern cruise control systems not only help you maintain a set speed on main roads, but also adapt that speed to slow your car when a slower vehicle pulls in front or increase it again when the road ahead is clear.
To know when such a system is in operation, a warning light is displayed on the dashboard.
There are other warning lights too. They’re in place to help keep drivers safe. If your windscreen washer fluid is close to running out, a warning light will let you know. Should a brake light not be working, a warning light will let you know.
If any of an engine’s precision parts develop a problem, again, a warning light will let you know.
That’s why it’s important that drivers familiarise themselves with the warning lights in their car. Displayed on the dashboard’s instrument panel are green lights to let you know a system is in use, orange warning lights that provide an advisory signal and red warning lights to alert drivers to a fault with part of their vehicle which requires further investigation.
So, don’t be in the dark about engine warning lights. Brush up with this guide to the most important and common you may encounter, or use your vehicle’s handbook to shed light on the matter.
Red warning lights in cars
Brake system/ABS light
You’ll see this when the handbrake is applied. But if it comes on when the handbrake is released, the brakes could be nearing the end of their life; over time, brake pads and discs wear down and need replacing. However, it may also indicate a fault with the brakes, brake fluid level or the related driving aids, such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability program (ESP). So, get your car inspected by a reputable garage.
Engine cooling system
An engine’s cooling system is its lifeblood, ensuring that the motor works at its optimum operating temperature. Should the warning light come on, it may indicate that there is insufficient coolant fluid in the radiator or some sort of blockage or air lock which could cause it to overheat. Stop the vehicle when safe and use the vehicle handbook to locate the coolant reservoir in the engine bay. Then, check whether the level has dropped below its marked minimum level. If it has, you may need to contact your breakdown provider or take the car to a garage to have it inspected.
Engine oil pressure
If this illuminates, you should immediately switch off the engine, when it's safe to do so, and check your car’s engine oil level. If you don’t know how to do this, see the vehicle handbook for step-by-step instructions. If the oil level is below the minimum level required, then it will need to be topped up with the correct type of oil. Again, the handbook will detail your car’s requirements. If the problem persists, have it professionally checked as there could be a more serious issue.
If this illuminates while the engine is running, then there is a problem with the engine oil level sensor, and you will need to have your car checked by a professional.
Power steering system
If the power-assisted steering develops a problem, it should be checked at a garage. There could be a leak, or a problem with the pump, and should the system fail there could be a dramatic increase in the resistance of the steering wheel.
Airbags and seatbelts
Modern cars are packed with airbags and active restraint systems that must be checked by a garage should this symbol illuminate. It’s important to do this as soon as possible, because there is a risk these safety features may not work in the event of a collision.
Vehicle battery and charging system
With so many electric gadgets and gizmos on a modern car, the battery has a hard life. If it’s reaching the end of the road, or there is a problem with the charging system, it will need further investigation — ultimately, your car won’t run without a fully functioning battery.
ORANGE warning lights in cars
Engine control or emissions management
In the engine and exhaust system, there are multiple sensors that relay multiple messages to a range of computers. These feedback to a car’s main brain, which in turn passes alerts to the driver. If it turns on, take the car to be inspected at a garage.
Diesel particulate filter
Diesel cars use specially designed filters to trap harmful particulates that are emitted when driving. Like the exhaust, these have a finite operating life, but if the first symbol appears you have the opportunity to regenerate the filter by driving at a speed of 37mph (60km/h) until the symbol disappears. If the second symbol comes on, get a garage to check whether the filter needs to be replaced.
A wear and tear part for every diesel car, these help start a diesel engine when it’s cold. If the glow plug symbol remains on when driving, it indicates trouble. Happily, it is not a big job for them to be replaced.
Tyre pressure monitoring
If your car has tyre pressure monitoring, it will let you know when one tyre falls to a significantly lower pressure than the other three tyres. So if this symbol appears, check the air pressure of all tyres. The handbook will detail the correct pressure for your vehicle’s tyre size.
Blind Sport Warning
Working as an extra pair of eyes in the back of your head, this system uses sensors to detect when a car is on either side of your vehicle. The orange symbol will illuminate in the relevant wing mirror, and an alert may sound should you indicate to change lanes.
If you see this icon it means your car is due for routine servicing, though this may be an oil and filter change or a service — a dealer can confirm which it is. The symbol will most likely be accompanied by a sum of mileage or number of days that will count down to when the service should be performed.
Vehicle Stability Assist
All new Hondas are fitted with a sophisticated system – Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) – that can help prevent your car from skidding. If this symbol appears, it could be that VSA has been switched off by the driver or an inspection may be required.
Lane Departure Warning System
Acting as an extra pair of eyes on the road ahead, the Lane Departure Warning System alerts the driver when the car is straying from its lane. You’ll generally see this symbol when the system is in use.
Forward Collision Warning
Working in tandem with the Lane Departure Warning System, the Forward Collision Warning can apply the brakes if a hazard is detected and the driver fails to respond to a visual or audible alert.
GREEN warning SYMBOLS IN YOUR HONDA
If you have turned on the master switch for the cruise control system, a green symbol will show on the dashboard. It will be accompanied by another green symbol once the driver has set a cruising speed for the system to maintain.
To help make your Honda as efficient as possible, ECON – economy – mode is fitted. Press this button on the dashboard and the information display may change while the characteristics of the engine’s power delivery and the way the air conditioning works are adjusted to use as little energy as possible.