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What Your Car’s Dashboard Warning Lights Mean

Dashboard lights are nothing new, but the messages are. The following list of car warning lights are the most common lights used by auto manufacturers. Not all warning lights are universal, some have different meanings. Always refer to your owner’s manual when you’re not 100% sure what the light indicates.

Many warning lights indicate that a fault has occurred inside the vehicle’s system, but it doesn’t pinpoint the item or system that has failed. In these cases, a code reader or scan tool can help determine the part that needs to be replaced. If an indicator light on your dash is on, visit your local AutoZone store to get the best products and information to help keep your vehicle running in top condition.


Icon for Check Engine or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL): light
Check Engine or Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL):

Indicates the engine computer has set a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC). Usually requires diagnosis with a professional scan tool. Learn the top five reasons why your check engine light is illuminated.

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Icon for Battery Charging Alert light
Battery Charging Alert

Indicates voltage level is below normal level and the vehicle’s charging system is not functioning properly. Check battery terminals, alternator belt, and battery condition.

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Icon for Coolant Temp Warning light
Coolant Temp Warning

Indicates temperature has exceeded normal limits. Check coolant level, fan operation, radiator cap, coolant leaks.

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Icon for Transmission Temperature light
Transmission Temperature

Transmission is operating at higher than optimum temperature as transmission fluid is hotter than normal. Check transmission fluid level and engine coolant level.

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Icon for Oil Pressure Warning light
Oil Pressure Warning
Icon for Oil Change Reminder light
Oil Change Reminder

Indicates that oil life has expired. This is monitored by the ECM; the interval can be mileage or a combination of readings taken by the ECM. The reset procedure is listed in the owner’s manual. Some vehicles require the use of special tools to reset the light.

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Icon for Service Vehicle Soon light
Service Vehicle Soon

Typically indicates a lighting or other electrical problem that is controlled by the BCM (body control module). Check all lights (headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and hazard lights). This symbol may also be used to warn driver of a traction control problem, or a communication problem between modules.

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Icon for TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) light
TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)

Indicates the tire pressure monitoring system has found a tire with low air pressure or there may be a TPMS sensor malfunction. Check tire pressure. Some vehicles will allow manual reset of TPMS warning light and others will require professional diagnosis. Refer to owner’s manual.

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Icon for Brake System light
Brake System

Indicates one of three possible conditions: parking brake is on; problem with the braking system/brake fluid is low, or ABS problem. Check brake fluid and make sure the parking brake is fully released. If the problem is in the ABS system, it may need a professional diagnosis.

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Icon for Reduced Power Warning light
Reduced Power Warning

Indicates Engine Computer has limited engine power output. The ECM has many levels of reduced power depending on what component has failed in its control system. Usually requires diagnosis with a professional scan tool.

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Icon for ABS Light light
ABS Light

Indicates that the Anti-lock Brake system computer has set a code and needs professional diagnosis.

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Icon for Gas Cap light
Gas Cap

The check gas cap light indicates that the gas cap is not tightened properly. If not addressed, quite often the Check Engine Light will also illuminate.

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Icon for Cruise Control light
Cruise Control

Indicates that cruise control is set during driving.

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Icon for ESP Fault light
ESP Fault

Indicates that there is a problem with the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system.

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Icon for Security Alert light
Security Alert

If the symbol lights momentarily it may mean that the ignition switch is locked and will need the proper transponder-equipped key to re-start. If the symbol is visible when the vehicle is on, then it typically indicates a malfunction in the security system.

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Icon for Lamp Out light
Lamp Out

Indicates that there is an exterior light on the vehicle that is not functioning properly.

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Icon for Traction Control or ESP light
Traction Control or ESP

Illuminates when the vehicle’s traction control/anti-skid or electronic stability system is in use. Usually an indicator that conditions are slippery.

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Icon for Door Ajar light
Door Ajar

Indicates that a door (including hood and trunk) is not closed. Open and close all doors, including hood and trunk. If vehicle is left in this condition overnight it can drain the battery.

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Icon for Overdrive Light light
Overdrive Light

This symbol indicates that the vehicle’s overdrive system has been manually turned off. Typically the overdrive system is controlled by an on/off switch.

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Icon for Airbag Fault light
Airbag Fault

If this light stays illuminated after starting, it indicates that the vehicle has found a fault in the airbag system and the computer has set a code. Professional repair of the supplemental restraint system is highly recommended.

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Icon for Washer Fluid Reminder light
Washer Fluid Reminder

Indicates washer fluid is low. Fill washer fluid reservoir. The cap has a symbol that looks like a windshield. Some vehicles have separate reservoirs for front and rear window washers.

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Icon for Fog Lamp light
Fog Lamp

Indicates that the vehicle’s front fog lamps are illuminated.

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Icon for Glow Plug (Diesel) light
Glow Plug (Diesel)

On diesel vehicles this light indicates that the engine’s glow plugs are warming up and the engine should not be started until this light goes out.

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Icon for DPF Light (Diesel) light
DPF Light (Diesel)

The diesel exhaust particulate filter has failed its test and needs to be serviced.

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Icon for DEF Light (Diesel) light
DEF Light (Diesel)

The diesel exhaust fluid reservoir is low on fluid.

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The AutoZone Fix Finder

An easy-to-use tool to troubleshoot why your Check Engine Light is on, Fix Finder utilizes an extensive database of repair solutions from ASE certified mechanics to help you get to the most likely fix.

How does AutoZone Fix Finder work?

  • Fix Finder pulls your vehicle information, code and mileage.
  • This data is analyzed to give you verified fix solutions for your specific vehicle from over 5.5 million ASE-Certified technicians’ records.
  • These solutions are given to you in a FREE, easy-to-read MYZONE HEALTH REPORT.

Your Check Engine Light may be indicating a simple problem that’s easy to fix – such as a loose gas cap. Or, it could be a warning of a more serious problem that could damage your engine components. Finding out why your light is on now can save you money and trouble down the road.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

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