Car Indicator Lights That You Should Never Ignore

October 9, 2022
Natalie Thorburn

If you're like most people, you probably don't give your car's indicator lights much thought—that is, until one of them starts flashing. Then, all of a sudden, you're filled with questions. What does this light mean? Is it serious? Do I need to pull over?

Most indicator lights are designed to let you know when something in your car needs attention. Some indicate that a system is malfunctioning and needs to be serviced or repaired, while others are simply letting you know that a system is activated—for example, that your headlights are on or that your fuel tank is nearly empty. In either case, it's important to take note of the light and take action accordingly. Below, we'll go over five indicator lights that you should never ignore. If any of these lights come on in your car, be sure to take notice and take the appropriate action.

Oil Can Light

This light looks like an old-fashioned oil can with a drip coming out of the spout. If this light comes on in your car, it means there's not enough oil pressure in the engine. This could be due to low oil levels or a more serious issue such as a blockage in the oil filter. In either case, it's important to pull over and turn off the engine as soon as possible to avoid damage.

Red Battery Light

This one is pretty self-explanatory—it looks like a battery with a + and – sign inside. If this light comes on, it means there's an issue with your car's charging system and the battery isn't being charged properly. This could be due to a loose connection or a failed alternator.

Coolant Temperature Light

This light looks like a thermometer floating in water. It indicates that the coolant temperature in your engine is too high and is in danger of overheating. If this happens, pull over immediately and turn off the engine. Let it cool down before checking the radiator for leaks or adding coolant if needed.

Brake System Light

This light looks like a circle with an exclamation mark inside of it. It indicates that there's an issue with your car's brake system and you need to get service as soon as possible. In the meantime, drive cautiously and avoid using the brakes too excessively.

Tire Pressure Light

This light looks like an exclamation mark inside of a horseshoe (or U). It indicates that one or more of your tires is low on air pressure. Pull over at the next opportunity and check all four tires for proper inflation levels (you can find these levels in your owner's manual or on the placard inside your driver's door).


These are just five of the many different indicator lights that could come on in your car while you're driving. Of course, this list isn't exhaustive, so be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the different symbols in your car so you know what they mean if they come on. And if you're ever uncertain about what an indicator light means or what action to take, reach out to a repair or auto body shop in your area to have your vehicle evaluated.


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