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What Do My Car’s Warning Lights Mean?

Dashboard warning lights indicate various issues with your car, such as engine, coolant, oil pressure, transmission, battery, airbags, and brakes. Mission Auto Repair in Winchester, VA offers professional diagnosis and repair to address these problems, ensuring vehicle safety and longevity.
What Do My Car’s Warning Lights Mean?
What Do My Car’s Warning Lights Mean?

A lot of different symbols can appear on your dashboard, from something as simple as a door left slightly ajar to something as serious as your engine overheating. With the number and size of these icons, memorizing each meaning is challenging. It’s even harder to know exactly what to do when one of these lights pops up.

Each of these lights represents an issue with some aspect of your car, so knowing which steps you need to take is integral to the health and longevity of your vehicle. However, not knowing what these symbols are can add stress to your life. Because of this, Mission Auto Repair in Winchester, VA has compiled a list of the most important warning lights you should know.

Check Engine

The check engine light is incredibly ambiguous. While many other warning lights signify which system has issues, the check engine light can come on for any problem with your motor or emissions systems. Anything from a loose wire to a significant part in the heart of your engine failing could cause this light to appear.

If this light appears while driving, it’s important not to panic. There’s a chance that there’s a minor problem with the car. However, it’s just as important not to ignore the issue. As soon as you see this light appear, take your vehicle to a mechanic so they can diagnose the issue.

Coolant Temperature

The coolant in your car is in charge of ensuring your engine doesn’t get too hot. When this light pops on, it means that your coolant, and therefore your engine, is overheating. When you see this light, you should pull over and allow the engine ample time to cool. Once you’ve given it a minute, you should check key parts of the cooling system, namely the fans, radiator cap, and coolant levels. Ignoring this light could cause your car to shut down completely, so don’t hesitate to bring the vehicle to your mechanic for an in-depth diagnosis of the rest of the cooling system.

Oil Pressure Warning

Oil acts as the lubricant for all of the moving parts in your engine, including the cylinders that propel you forward when you press the gas. When this light is on, it means that your car doesn’t have enough oil in its system and won’t have enough lubricant to stop heat buildup and damage from the constant friction of the moving parts. This light could signal that your oil is running out, but it could also signal damage like broken oil pumps or blown piston rings.

If your car is low on oil or extremely dark with a burnt smell, filling it up or getting an oil change will likely make this light disappear from your dashboard. A quick oil check with your dipstick will help you determine if your engine is running low on oil. However, if the light persists after you’ve refilled the reservoir, you may have a larger issue requiring a mechanic’s trained eye.

Driving for long periods without adequate oil will cause your engine to cease functioning, and driving on low oil for just a couple of miles could greatly increase the cost of repairing your engine. When you notice this light, you should stop driving as soon as possible.

Transmission Temperature

Your vehicle’s transmission is in charge of switching gears, and it requires transmission fluid to function correctly. However, if this fluid is heated too much, it can cause the system to shut down. When this light comes on, it’s a warning that the transmission oil has reached too high a temperature. This can cause transmission failure, which is incredibly costly to replace.

When you notice this light, it’s important to pull over and give your transmission fluid enough time to cool off. Continuing to drive while the oil is hot will only heat it further, which will only cause the lifespan of your transmission to be continuously cut in half.


For many car owners, this light is usually accompanied by the heart-sinking ‘whir’ of your car being unable to start due to your battery being out of juice. However, this light can also indicate other issues with your vehicle. So, if your car starts up normally, yet this symbol doesn’t disappear from your dashboard, your engine’s alternator or wiring could be having issues that need to be addressed and repaired by a professional.

Airbag Warning

If this light stays illuminated after your car starts, there’s likely a problem with one of your car’s airbags. While this issue may not cause you to break down or become stranded, it is an important safety issue. In the event of an accident, even just one of your airbags not going off could seriously impact those driving with you.

Brake System

One of the best parts about driving a car is its ability to gain speed quickly. However, when your car can’t come to a controlled stop just as quickly as it speeds up, it’s incredibly dangerous for your vehicle to be on the road. When this light comes on, it indicates an issue with your brake system.

While something as simple as forgetting to disengage your parking brake can cause this light (although some cars come with a separate light saying ‘parking brake’), it can also be caused by brake fluid being too low or brake pads needing replacement. Either way, getting your vehicle to a mechanic is essential to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.

The Professional Diagnosis And Repair Your Vehicle Needs

Getting help from an expert mechanic is the best way to ensure that the issue causing this light is diagnosed and solved. The problem with your car won’t disappear, and if left alone, most issues will cause increasingly expensive damage to other parts of your engine. Mission Auto Repair’s team of mechanics in Winchester, VA has the experience and skill to pinpoint and repair any issues with your car. Our master technician has over 25 years of experience in diagnostics and extensive repairs. Call our office today!