Lights on your car's dashboard indicate something's wrong. As a rule of thumb, red warning lights need immediate action – amber or orange, and other colour lights often mean something needs checking by a garage.
This handy guide lists the most common dashboard lights we get calls about. It’s normal to see some of these lights briefly while you start your engine, but if they stay lit while you’re driving, then you may need to take action. Choose from the symbols below to find out what to do next:
If you can't see the one you're looking for, check your owner's manual as warnings and icons vary with each manufacturer. Or use our free app to search all warning lights by car make and light colour.
Engine management light
Safe to drive: Yes, if it’s always lit and there's no loss of power. You should get it checked as soon as possible.
No, if it's flashing while you're driving. Avoid heavy acceleration and high engine speed and stop the vehicle. Restart the engine after 2 minutes to reset the engine management system. If the light is still flashing, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown.
Next steps: Get a garage to check the engine soon to avoid damaging the catalytic converter or diesel particulate filter.
The problem: Cars have lots of sensors to check if everything's running smoothly. If there's a problem, the sensor will tell the engine control unit (ECU) which will turn on the engine management light. There are many reasons why the light will show but a garage can check what the cause is.
Battery warning light
Safe to drive: No, if the battery light shows red while driving, you need to have the fault looked at immediately as the battery isn't being charged.
Next steps: Stop the vehicle in a safe place, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown. Don’t restart the engine as this could make the problem worse.
The problem: There may be a problem with the wiring, the alternator or the alternator drive belt.
Oil pressure warning light
Safe to drive: No, you need to stop and check your oil level as this light shows when there's no oil pressure in the engine.
Next steps: Stop as soon as you can and check the oil level, topping up as needed – your owner's manual will tell you how. If the light still shows, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown.
The problem: If the warning light is on when the oil level is right, there's a problem with the oil supply which could be caused by the oil pump or a blocked oil filter. Your car engine needs the right oil pressure to stay lubricated, otherwise it'll get damaged.
Brake warning light
Safe to drive: No, if you need to press your brake further than usual – your hydraulic brake circuits may have failed. Pull over and get help.
Yes, if the brake fluid level is ok, it might just be a sensor fault. In which case, it's safe to drive to a garage.
Next steps: Check you've released the handbrake fully. If you have then stop, check the brake fluid level and top it up if you need to – your owner's manual will tell you how.
The problem: Your vehicle may have a brake fluid leak, need the brake pads replacing, or have a sensor failure – get it checked out at your local garage.
Anti-lock braking system (ABS) warning light
Safe to drive: Yes, for most vehicles as long as there aren't any noises coming from the wheels – check your handbook to be on the safe side. Take extra care when driving, especially during wet or icy weather, as your car's braking distances may increase.
Next steps: Get a garage to check the ABS system as soon as possible.
The problem: It could be as simple as a sensor fault but a garage will let you know what the issue is.
Brake system and ABS warning lights
Safe to drive: No, stop the vehicle and contact us to report your breakdown.
Next steps: Slow down gradually and avoid braking suddenly.
The problem: If your brake and ABS warning lights come on at the same time, there could be a major fault with the brakes. This is unsafe for you and other road users, so don’t drive the car until the problem has been looked at and fixed.
Diesel particulate filter (DPF) warning light
Safe to drive: Yes, but you should drive for around 10 minutes at over 40mph when safe.
No, if the light doesn't disappear after continual driving, stop the vehicle, turn off the engine and contact us to report your breakdown.
Next steps: Stop-start driving can cause the DPF to get blocked so you should clear it by driving around for 10 minutes at over 40mph – check your owner's manual for more specific advice.
The problem: DPFs trap tiny soot particles which are harmful to health, and convert them to harmless ash when the exhaust system gets hot – but this doesn't happen on short journeys. If the DPF is full, it'll need replacing which can be expensive.