Skip to main content

What’s This Car Dashboard Light Mean? A Quick Reference Guide

Depiction of a car dashboard with active warning lights

Your dashboard has a variety of displays and warning lights that serve as helpful indicators of the sometimes complicated and delicate systems of your vehicle. A good portion of these lights may be intuitive or just common knowledge, but others can leave car owners baffled and asking, “What’s THAT supposed to mean?” If this is you, then look no further than our handy Dashboard visual dictionary, roughly organized from most to least common or complicated.

Metro Motor’s Car Dashboard Light Visual Index

Low Fuel Indicator

Looks Like: A gas pump

It Means: You're low on gas, but usually have around 25 miles worth left depending on your gas mileage.

You Should: Make a plan to stop by a gas station. However, if you recently fueled up, there could be a puncture in your gas line, which should be taken care of as soon as possible.

Door ajar 

Looks Like: A top down view of a car with one or more doors open

It Means: One of your doors may not fully be closed, and be at risk for opening while in motion.

You Should: If you have a newer car, it may tell you exactly which door isn’t latched. If not, then take a lap, giving each door a good slam until the light goes out.

Fog Lamp Indicator

Looks Like: A shining headlight (sometimes combined with an arrow)

It Means: Your fog lights are on

You Should: If you’re in low-visibility conditions, then nothing needs to be done. 

Washer Fluid Indicator

Looks Like: Square with simple water spout running through it.

It Means: You’re low on wiper fluid.

You Should: Refill your fluid reservoir, as this wiper fluid helps keep your windshield clean of debris that could reduce your field of view.

Oil Pressure Light

Looks Like: An old fashioned oil can.

It Means: There is low oil or improper oil circulation.

You Should: See your local mechanic to either refill your oil or check that nothing is blocking your system.

Tire Pressure Light aka TPMS Signal

Looks Like: A cup or bowl with prongs on the bottom with an exclamation mark in the middle

It Means: Your tire pressure is too low or too high.

You Should: Check there is no damage to your tires that could allow air out and no signs of over-inflation before taking your vehicle to the nearest mechanic shop to correct your tire pressure and make sure it is within range for your vehicle’s make and model.

Check Engine Light

Looks Like: A line drawing of an engine block

It Means: Something could be wrong with your engine. However, it sometimes can be an issue with your gas cap.

You Should: Verify that your gas cap is seal tight, preventing any issue with fuel consumption. If the light does not go off with your adjustments, it may just be time for a tune up. Schedule an appointment with Metro Motor.

Airbag Indicator

Looks Like: A person in a car seat with a deployed airbag at their front.

It Means: The airbag is disabled.

You Should: If you did not disable the airbag yourself, check there isn’t an issue with the sensor.

Engine Temperature Warning

Looks Like: A thermometer or key in wavy, water lines.

It Means: Your engine is operating at a dangerous temperature.

You Should: Check there isn’t an issue with your coolant/antifreeze. In hot conditions, it may be that you need to give your engine time to cool off before

Battery Alert 

Looks Like: A car battery

It Means: Battery caps or alternator belt are common issues, but this light means there’s overall a problem with the charging system

You Should: Pop your car’s hood and check the battery and attached wires are not loose. If you can not find the source of the issue, make an appointment with your Metro Motor Technician as soon as possible.

Automatic Braking System aka ABS

Looks Like: Letters ABS within a circle and two bookend lines

It Means: Your automatic braking system is engaged, trying to keep your wheels from locking in slippery conditions.

You Should: Drive cautiously and apply gentle pressure to your brakes. Your ABS will engage as a safety feature, so consider it a warning that you make be driving recklessly in the given conditions.

Traction Control Light

Looks Like: A car with swerving lines extending from tires

It Means: Your Car is working to regain traction via your brake system

You Should: Drive carefully, as you’re most likely driving in slippery conditions.

Lamp Out Light

Looks Like: A simple sun.

It Means: One of your exterior lights needs to be replaced. 

You Should: Either replace the light yourself or have a professional technician do it, as this refers to your exterior lights, which is a crucial safety feature.

Auto Shift Lock

Looks Like: A man’s dress shoe in a circle with bookend marks.

It Means: You’re trying to start or shift gears without engaging the brake. 

You Should: Remove your foot and re-apply pressure to the break. 

There are few that are dire situations out of all the warning lights that could appear on your car’s dashboard. However, if you’re unfamiliar with them, any warning light could become stressful. If you still need help deciphering your dash, send your question to our certified technicians and we’ll be happy to help.

Find Your Local Metro Motor Auto Service Center

Enter your DC, MD or VA zip code

Luke's Wings Metro Motor