Whether your car is new or has a few years under its belt, issues can pop up. Some of the most common problems on vehicles these days are warning lights. This is how it usually goes: You’re driving along the interstate or waiting for the red light to turn green. You hear a ding and immediately look to your gas gauge. It’s full, but nearby there’s a red or yellow light that’s burning a hole in your cornea. You probably don’t know what it means right away, and that makes it even worse. At the next opportunity or exit, you pull over and ring up your resident car expert. You quickly find out there’s nothing they can do to fix it over the phone, and they suggest you get it diagnosed. But even when you don’t know exactly what’s going on, you can find out what to keep an eye on while your service appointment is pending. Here are a few details about what those warning lights mean.
The Color of Warning LightsThe first indication of how you should react to your warning lights is simply by color.
- If the light is green or blue, it’s only an indicator and not a problem that needs attention. It’s something like a fog light indicator, high-beam indicator, or cruise control indicator.
- Amber or yellow warning lights are more serious. These are typically non-critical warnings that need attention, but there’s no immediate panic. The Check Engine light, and low washer fluid indicators, for example, are amber warning lights.
- Red warning lights are more serious and should be addressed in short order. They indicate problems that have the potential to cause a breakdown. The battery light and brake warning light are a couple examples.
What the Check Engine Light MeansPerhaps the most concerning warning light is the Check Engine light, also known as the Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL). It’s a one-size-fits-all light that covers dozens of possible issues. When it comes on, it can leave you confused and concerned, unsure if your car is safe to drive. It can come on for reasons that include:
- A loose fuel cap.
- A failing oxygen sensor, also known as an O2 sensor.
- Abnormal operation inside the transmission.
- A misfiring spark plug.
- Powertrain control module communication problems.
- Catalytic converter efficiency issues.
- And much, much more.