Red, Amber, Green Dash Warning Light - What do they mean?

You’ll no doubt have noticed every time your start your car, or indeed a rental car that all of the lights on the dash illuminate and then quickly go out, this is all part of the start-up procedure and standard electrical and systems checks the car will do each time it is started. It’s usually quite rare to see any of these lights beyond the start-up, however would you know what any of these lights actually mean should they come on? Most of them are advisory and some will require your immediate attention, whilst some you may have more time to address. Either way, it’s wise to understand what these dashboard warning lights mean and what actions you need to take. This is even more important in a rental car as the lights may differ from your own car and we advise that you contact the rental agent for advice should your rental car display any of the dash warning lights.

*Whilst we’ve gone to every effort to cover the most common dash lights and their standardised format, you should check the owners manual for confirmation or if you unsure as not all manufacturers use the same lights / symbols and some may have additional lights for specific purposes. Not all cars will have all the lights displayed here.

Dash Warning Light Colors

It’s reasonable to assume that the color of the dash light will give you some indication as to the severity or urgency of the information provided. In general, a red dash light indicates a warning and something that requires you attention, an orange / amber light suggests an advisory issue that you should be aware of but not necessarily take immediate action and a white / blue / green light is most often simply for information / confirming an action / function.

  • WARNING Dash Lights – These are generally red in color
  • ADVISORY Dash Lights – These are generally amber in color
  • INFORMATION Dash Lights – These are general white / blue / green in color

DASHBOARD ADVISORY LIGHTS – AMBER

Dashboard advisory lights are usually coloured Amber (or orange / yellow) and whilst generally considered less important than dash warning lights in red, it’s still wise to know your ‘low washer fluid’ symbol from your ‘traction control de-activated’. Whilst both require attention, it’s far less likely that being low or empty of washer fluid could have such serious implications as your traction control system being de-activated. Our favourite of all the dash advisory lights has to be the turtle. This doesn’t mean you have a turtle in the car, rather the car is low on electric power and needs charging, naturally you’ll only see this on electric vehicles.

DASHBOARD INFORMATION LIGHTS – BLUE / GREEN / WHITE

Dash board information lights are just that, for information. It’s rare that you’ll have cause for concern if you see any of the dash symbols below, however you still need to be aware what they mean and why they might display. For instance, the high beam (main beam) dash symbol indicates that you have switched on the main beam headlights, which is great for you to see as far ahead as possible in the dark, however very dazzling for oncoming driver which could lead to an accident. If using main beam, it’s important to switch them off again for oncoming traffic. Other dashboard information symbols of note include the ECO mode symbol, many modern cars will have an eco mode or recommended shift light to maximise economy both reducing fuel consumption and emissions.

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Bonnet Open

Indicates that the vehicles bonnet is open or not secured properly and could open whilst driving.

Advice

Ensure bonnet is securely closed.

Severity

7/10

Boot Open

Indicates that the vehicles boot / trunk is open or not closed properly amd could open whilst driving.

Advice

Ensure boot / trunk is securely closed before setting off.

Severity

3/10

Door(s) Open

Indicates that one or more of the vehicle doors is open or not closed properly.

Advice

Ensure all doors are securely closed before setting off.

Severity

4/10

Car Lock

Indicates that the vehicle is locked

Advice

Unlock the car if required. If battery has failed in keyfob, use manual key override.

Severity

1/10

Locked

Indicates that the vehicle is locked

Advice

Unlock vehicle when required.

Severity

1/10

Security

Indicates the vehicle key is required or another fault with the vehicles security system.

Advice

Insert key into ignition to start vehicle.

Severity

1/10

Power Steering

Indicates a fault with the power steering system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis, sudden loss of power steering will make steering the vehicle very difficult and could cause an accident.

Severity

8/10

SRS

Indicates a fault with the SRS (supplementary restraint system) more commonly known as air bag system

Advice

Seek immediate assistance / diagnosis. The SRS is an essential part of the cars safety devices in the event of a crash

Severity

9/10

Oil Pressure

Indicates that the vehicles bonnet is open or not secured properly and could open whilst driving.

Advice

Ensure bonnet is securely closed.

Severity

7/10

Low Engine Oil

Indicates the engine oil level is low.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and top up oil to correct level, or seek assistance. Running the engine with low oil can cause significant damage to the engine.

Severity

7/10

Battery

Indicates a fault with the battery if light does not go out after ignition, likely low charge.

Advice

Re-charge / replace battery if confirmed that battery is faulty / beyond its design life.

Severity

4/10

Battery

Indicates a fault with the battery if light does not go out after ignition, likely low charge.

Advice

Re-charge / replace battery if confirmed that battery is faulty / beyond its design life.

Severity

4/10

Air Bag

Indicates a fault with the airbag system.

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis at the earliest opportunity.

Severity

9/10

Air Bag

Indicates a fault with the airbag system.

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis at the earliest opportunity.

Severity

9/10

Airbag Off

Indicates that an airbag has been switched off manually.

Advice

When travelling with baby seats in the front passenger seat of a vehicle, the airbag for the passenger should be disabled, ensure you re-enable it when the child is not travelling in the front seat.

Severity

8/10

Seat Belt

Indicates that a seat belt has not been secured for a passenger in the vehicle.

Advice

Check all passengers have seat belts secured before setting off.

Severity

9/10

Hazard Lights

Indicates that the vehicles hazard warning lights are on.

Advice

Turn off hazard warning lights when no longer required.

Severity

1/10

Warning

Indicates a general warning

Advice

Navigate the cars onboard computer / information system to identify the fault and address accordingly.

Severity

9/10

Brake Warning

Indicates a fault with the braking system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis for immediate repair.

Severity

9/10

Brake Warning

Indicates a fault with the braking system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis for immediate repair.

Severity

9/10

Brake Pad

Indicates a fault with the brake pads, most likely that they are wearing low and require replacement.

Advice

Check brake pad wear and have replaced at earliest opportunity.

Severity

9/10

Brake Fluid

Indicates the brake fluid level is low.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do and seek assistance / diagnosis. If possible, top up brake fluid using correct specification fluid to required level.

Severity

8/10

Hand Brake / Park Brake

Indicates the hand brake / park brake is on.

Advice

Release hand / park brake before setting off.

Severity

1/10

Brake Warning

indicates a fault with the braking system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis for immediate repair.

Severity

9/10

Transmission

Indicates a fault with the transmission / gearbox.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistange / diagnosis.

Severity

7/10

Transmission Temperature

Indicates that the transmission / gearbox temperature is high.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek asisstance / diagnosis.

Severity

7/10

Engine Temperature Warning

Indicates overheating .

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance for immediate repair.

Severity

9/10

A/T Oil Temp

Indicates that the automatic transmission oil temperature is high.

Advice

You should stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis as could cause sigfinicant damage to the gearbox

Severity

8/10

A/T P

Indicates the 4WD system is in neutral. Can also indicate a fault with the park gear in automatic transmission.

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis, ensure hand / parking brake is applied securely in case of fauly with park gear.

Severity

7/10

Washer Fluid

Indicates that the vehicle is low on screen wash fluid.

Advice

Top up screen wash as soon as possible to maintain ability to keep windscreen clear.

Severity

4/10

Engine Check

Indicates fault with engine.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis.

Severity

8/10

Engine Check

Indicates fault with engine.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis.

Severity

8/10

Electric Charging

Indicates that the vehicle is connected to electrical charging station

Advice

Disconnect from the charging station when appropriate.

Severity

1/10

Charging

Indicates that the vehicle is connected to electrical charging station

Advice

Disconnect from charging station when required.

Severity

1/10

Warning

Indicates a warning

Advice

Navigate the cars onboard computer / information system to identify the fault and address accordingly.

Severity

7/10

PCS

Indicates a fault with the vehicle PCS system.

Advice

Stop the car when safe to do and seek breakdown assistance / diagnosis.

Severity

6/10

Transmission

Indicates a fault with the transmission / gearbox.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis.

Severity

7/10

Service

Indicates that the vehicle is due for a service.

Advice

Contact service centre to book scheduled maintenance.

Severity

3/10

Jack / Ramp

Indicaes that the vehicle is on a ramp / jack system

Advice

No action required.

Severity

1/10

No action required.

Indicates low engine oil.

Advice

Check engine oil level and top up with correct specification oil as required. Running the engine with low engine oil can cause significant damage to the engine.

Severity

7/10

A/T Oil Temp

Indicates that the automatic transmission oil termperature is high.

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis asap as could result in significant damage to the automatic transmission.

Severity

8/10

Information

Indicates an issue that requires attention.

Advice

Navigate the vehicles onboard computer / information to identify the issue and address accordingly.

Severity

4/10

Oil Level

Indicates the oil level is outside of the recommended parameters.

Advice

Check engine oil level manually, if low, top up with correct specification oil to correct level, if high seem assistance to have drained.

Severity

7/10

Warning

Indicates a warning

Advice

Navigate the cars onboard computer / information system to identify the fault and address accordingly.

Severity

7/10

Side air bag

Indicates a fault with the side air bag.

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis to ensure airbag system is fully functional as it provides a vital part of the cars safety features.

Severity

9/10

Glow Plug

Indicates the vehicles glow plugs are in opertion (diesel vehicles only)

Advice

Diesel engines require the fuel to be pre-warmed before starting, if the light stays on there is a fault with the glow plugs and may need replacing.

Severity

4/10

Brake Warning

Indicates a fault with the vehicles braking system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis to ensure the braking system is fully operational.

Severity

9/10

ESP Warning

Indicates a fault with the vehicles ESP (electronic stability program)

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assitance / diagnosis. The ESP is an important part of the cars safety systems.

Severity

7/10

ABS Warning

Indicates a fault with the vehicles ABS (anti-lock braking system)

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis, the ABS system is a vital safety feature on the vehicle.

Severity

9/10

RBS Warning

Indicates a fault with the RBS (Recuperative Brake System), applicable to hybrid vehciles only

Advice

Schedule maintenance to have the RBS system inspected / repaired as necessary.

Severity

7/10

Brake Pad

Indicates a fault with the brake pads, most likely that they are wearing low and require replacement

Advice

Book maintenance for the vehicle to have brake pads checked / replaced if necessary.

Severity

7/10

Regenerative Brake Force

Indicates when the regenerative brake force has declined.

Advice

Schedule maintenance to have the system checked, reduced battery charge (hybrid only) likely.

Severity

3/10

Press Brake Pedal

Indicates the brake pedal must be pushed to start the engine.

Advice

Push the brake pedal to start the engine (only applicable to automatic transmission vehicles).

Severity

1/10

Brake Warning

Indicates a fault with the vehicles braking system.

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and seek assistance / diagnosis to ensure the braking system is fully operational.

Severity

9/10

Water in Fuel

Indicates water in the fuel.

Advice

Diesel vehicles are equipped with separators that remove water from the fuel, this symbol could indicate a fault with the separator or indicate contaminated fuel.

Severity

6/10

TPMS

Indicates a change in tyre pressure has been detected by the TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system)

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and check tyre pressures or for signs of puncture / foreign object in tyre. Fit spare / deploy tyre repair system if confident to do so or seek assitance.

Severity

7/10

TPMS

Indicates a change in tyre pressure has been detected by the TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring system)

Advice

Stop the vehicle when safe to do so and check tyre pressures or for signs of puncture / foreign object in tyre. Fit spare / deploy tyre repair system if confident to do so or seek assitance.

Severity

7/10

DPF

Indicates a fault with the DPF (diesel particulate filter)

Advice

Book maintenance for the vehicle to have the DPF inspected / replaced where necessary. The DPF prevents harmful emissions escaping into the atmosphere.

Severity

3/10

TCS

Indicates the vehicles TCS (traction control system) has been activated.

Advice

Adjust your driving to suit the conditions, if light remains on, seek diagnosis and could indicate a fault with the system.

Severity

6/10

TCS

Indicates the vehicles TCS (traction control system) has been activated.

Advice

Adjust driving style to suit conditions.

Severity

4/10

TCS OFF

Indicates the vehicles TCS (traction control system) has be deactivated

Advice

Reactivate TCS when appropriate, the traction control system provides an essential part of the vehicles safety features.

Severity

7/10

TCS

Indicates the vehicles TCS (traction control system) has been activated

Advice

Adjust driving style to suit conditions.

Severity

4/10

Key

Indicates the vehicle key is required or another fault with the vehicles security system

Advice

Insert the car key into ignition to start the vehicle.

Severity

2/10

Trailer

Indicates the vehicle is towing

Advice

Take extra care when towing.

Severity

4/10

4x2

Indicates that a 4WD capable vehicle is in 4×2 mode (2WD)

Advice

No action required

Severity

1/10

4WD

Indicates the vehicle is in 4WD mode

Advice

No action required.

Severity

1/10

4x4 Auto

Indicates the vehicle is in automatic 4WD mode

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

4x4 High

Indicates the vehicle is in 4×4 High gear mode

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

4x4 Low

Indicates when the regenerative brake force has declined.

Advice

Indicates the vehicle is in 4×4 Low gear mode

Severity

0/10

Centre Differential Lock

Indicates center differential lock (or 4Hi/Lo) indicator

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

Rear Differential Lock

Indicates rear differential lock indicator

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

Rear Differential Lock

Indicates rear differential lock indicator

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

Differential Lock

Indicates differential lock indicator

Advice

No actions required.

Severity

0/10

Power Limitation Indicator

Indicates that electric power is limited, only found on electric / hybrid vehicles

Advice

If warning light shows unexpectedly, schedule maintenance to have the electric / hybrid system inspected.

Severity

3/10

Parking Sensor

Indicates the parking sensor (front or rear) is in operation

Advice

Take note of parking sensor frequency to avoid collision when parking / reversing. A solid tone means the proximity to an external object is critical.

Severity

2/10

Lane Assist

Indicates the lane assist function is in operation

Advice

Maintain concentration when driving, if feeling tired then stop and take a break.

Severity

2/10

Start / Stop

Indicates the vehicles automatic start / stop system is in operation

Advice

No action required, continue to drive as normal and the engine will start and stop as required to reduce emissions.

Severity

1/10

Low Fuel

Indicates low fuel.

Advice

Visit your nearest petrol station and re-fuel. The vehicle range on low fuel ranges from 20-80 km typically.

Severity

4/10

Fog Light

Indicates the vehicle fog lights are on

Advice

Ensure fog lights are switched off when conditions improve as fog-lights can dazzle other road users.

Severity

3/10

Traction Control Fault Light

Indicates a fault with the traction control system

Advice

Schedule maintenance to diagnose / recitfy fault, drive with caution in the interim.

Severity

6/10

Cruise Control

Indicates the cruise control is in operation.

Advice

No action required, cruise control will automatically deactivate when the throttle / brake / clutch is engaged.

Severity

1/10

Window Wiper

Indicates the windscreen wipers are in operation.

Advice

Use the correct window wiper setting to suit the conditions

Severity

2/10

Screen-wash

Indicates the screen wash function

Advice

Use screen wash regularly to ensure a clear view of the road ahead (and behind)

Severity

3/10

Air Flow Upper

Indicates direction of airflow inside the vehicle, upper airflow blows air from upper air vents towards body and face

Advice

Redirect airflow as required.

Severity

1/10

Air Flow Upper and Lower

Indicates direction of airflow inside the vehicle, even distribution to upper and lower air vents

Advice

Redirect airflow as required.

Severity

1/10

Air Flow Lower

Indicates direction of airflow inside the vehicle, lower airflow blows air from lower air vents within foot-well to feet

Advice

Redirect airflow as required.

Severity

1/10

On

Indicates function is on

Advice

Check relevant function is no longer required.

Severity

1/10

Off

Indicates function is off

Advice

Check relevant function is no longer required.

Severity

2/10

Fresh Air Ventilation

Indicates that ventilation system is using fresh air and not recirculating internal air from the vehicle

Advice

Use fresh air when need to warm air quickly is not required.

Severity

2/10

Main Beam

Indicates that the vehicles main beam is on

Advice

Only use full / main beam lights when required taking care not to dazzle oncoming traffic.

Severity

4/10

Dipped Beam

Indicates that the vehicles dipped beam is on

Advice

Use headlights on appropriate setting for conditions.

Severity

2/10

Fog Light

Indicates that the vehicles fog light(s) is on.

Advice

Use fog-lights when conditions require. Ensure you switch off fog lights when no longer required to avoid dazzling other road users.

Severity

5/10

Side Lights

Indicates that the vehicles side lights are on

Advice

Use the appropriate headlight setting to suit the driving conditions.

Severity

3/10

Rear Windor Defrost

Indicates the rear window defrost / heater function is in operation

Advice

Turn off rear window defrost / heater when no longer required.

Severity

2/10

Fan

Indicates that the internal ventilation / fan is in operation.

Advice

Use internal ventilation / fan system to suit requirements.

Severity

1/10

Indicator

Indicates direction of indicator (left or right), sometimes called direction indicator or blinkers

Advice

Use indicators to signal intended change of direction, ensure indicators are left on once maneouvre complete as not to confuse other road users.

Severity

2/10

Recirculate

Indicates that the vehicles ventilation system is recirculating air from within the vehicle, suitable when particularly cold outside.

Advice

Switch to fresh air ventilation when appropriate.

Severity

2/10

Full Beam

Indicates that the full / main beam headlights are on.

Advice

Only use full / main beam lights when required taking care not to dazzle oncoming traffic.

Severity

4/10

Coolant

Indicates the vehicles coolant system is too cold

Advice

Seek assistance / diagnosis to ensure the coolant system is functioning properly. Check coolant levels in expansion tank under bonnet.

Severity

2/10

Charging

Indicates that the vehicle is connected to electrical charging station

Advice

Disconnect electric charging when required.

Severity

1/10

EV

Indicates the vehicle is is EV (electric vehicle) mode.

Advice

No action required.

Severity

0/10

Eco Mode

Indicates the vehicle is in ECO mode

Advice

No action required.

Severity

0/10

Eco Mode

Indicates the vehicle is in ECO mode

Advice

No action required.

Severity

0/10

Engine Stop

Indicates the engine start / stop function is in operation.

Advice

Continue as normal, the engine will restart automatically when required.

Severity

2/10

Shift light

Indicates the recommended gear shift to optimise fuel economy

Advice

Shift gear either up or down as directed where appropriate / conditions permit.

Severity

2/10

Interior Light

Indicates that the vehicles interior lights are on.

Advice

Ensure interior lights are switched off when not required to avoid a flat battery

Severity

2/10

Interior Light

Indicates that an interior light is on.

Advice

Ensure interior lights are switched off when not required to avoid a flat battery

Severity

2/10

Side Lights

Indicates that the sidelights are on.

Advice

Use the appropriate headlight setting for the conditions.

Severity

1/10

Fog Light

Indicates the fog lights are on

Advice

Ensure fog lights are switched off when conditions improve as fog-lights can dazzle other road users.

Severity

3/10

Full Beam

Indicates the vehicles full beam lights are on

Advice

Only use full / main beam lights when required taking care not to dazzle oncoming traffic.

Severity

4/10

Directional Headlights

Indicates the vehicles automatic directional headlights are in operation

Advice

No action required.

Severity

0/10

Self level-ling Headlights

Indicates the self level-ling headlights are on.

Advice

No action required.

Severity

0/10

Indicator

Indicates direction of indicator (left or right), sometimes called direction indicator or blinkers

Advice

Use indicators to signal intended change of direction, ensure indicators are left on once maneouvre complete as not to confuse other road users.

Severity

2/10

Car Key

Indicates the vehicle key is in the ignition

Advice

Remove the key from ignition when leaving / locking the car.

Severity

1/10

Security

Indicates the vehicle key is required or another fault with the vehicles security system

Advice

Insert key into ignition to start vehicle.

Severity

1/10

Parking Sensor

Indicates the parking sensor (front or rear) is in operation

Advice

Take note of parking sensor frequency to avoid collision when parking / reversing. A solid tone means the proximity to an external object is critical.

Severity

2/10

Auto Park Brake

Indicates the vehicles automatic park brake is in operation.

Advice

Continue to drive as normal and the brake will automatically release when required.

Severity

2/10