We all know that feeling when we see a warning light blinking on our car dashboard. You are not sure what it means, and you quickly search for the manual to try and interpret what the symbol is trying to tell us.
In this blog post, we’ll go over the top 90 most common car symbols and their meanings so that you’ll be better informed the next time a warning light pops up on your dashboard. By being aware of these lights, you can avoid costly repairs down the road.
Most Common Car Symbols & Warning Lights
There are some dashboard symbols and warning lights that are more common than others. Some are specific to specific car brands, while others will be seen on most car models on the market. We start by showing you the most common dashboard symbols that can be seen on most cars.
What you should know is that in general when it comes to cars, a red warning light means that there is danger and it should be checked immediately, while a yellow or orange warning light is a warning and should be checked as soon as possible. A green or blue light lets you know the system is on and operating
Normally, most car dashboard warning lights and symbols should be on for 3-5 seconds after you turn on the ignition, but if it stays on while the engine is running, there is probably something wrong that needs to be fixed. If you can’t find the dash symbol you are looking for, take a look in your vehicle’s owner’s manual.
Common Car Dashboard Symbols
1. Check Engine Light
A Check Engine light indicates an issue with the engine or the emissions. It can be shown either as an engine symbol or a plain text with “Check Engine”. Read More
2. Anti-lock Braking System
An ABS light indicates there is an issue with your anti-lock brakes or Anti-lock braking system (ABS). Read more
3. Airbag Indicator
An airbag light means that there is an issue with the airbag system. The airbags will not deploy in an accident with the light on. Read more
4. Oil Level Warning Light
A yellow oil level warning light indicates a low engine oil level. The oil level should be checked as soon as possible. Most likely due to an oil leak.
5. Oil Pressure Warning
A red oil pressure light indicates low oil pressure in the engine. Your engine should be switched off immediately to avoid damage when the oil pressure warning light shows. Read more
6. Battery Charge Warning
A battery charge warning symbol means that the generator is not charging the battery properly and that your engine is at risk of shutting down due to low battery capacity. Read more
7. Coolant Temperature Warning Light
An engine temperature warning light means that the engine coolant temperature is high and that the engine should be turned off immediately to avoid further damage. Read more
8. Tire Pressure Warning Light
A tire pressure warning light indicates low air pressure in one or more tires. It can also be caused by a faulty or uncalibrated tire pressure sensor. Read more
9. Traction Control/ESP Light
An ESP or Traction control light indicates an issue with the traction control system. Your traction control system will not work when the light is on – Danger. Read More
10. Service Engine Soon
A Service Engine Soon message indicates minor trouble with the engine or low fluid levels. Read more
11. Low Washer Fluid Light
A washer fluid symbol means that the windshield washer fluid level is low or an incorrect measuring system.
12. Automatic Shift Lock Symbol
An automatic shift lock symbol indicates the brake pedal is not pressed and the car will not start, and the shifter won’t move out of Park.
Engine & Emission Symbols
Engine and emission car dashboard lights and symbols include everything from mechanical damages to electrical issues related to the emission system.
13. Reduced Engine Power
A Reduced engine power car light means that there is an issue with the engine and the power is reduced to protect the engine. Read more
14. Lambda Warning Light
A lambda warning light indicates there is an issue with the air-fuel mixture or an issue with the oxygen sensors. This light is more common in older car models
15. Low Coolant Indicator
A low coolant warning light indicates there is a low coolant level in the coolant reservoir or an issue with the coolant level sensor. Check for leaks around the radiator, radiator cap, coolant hoses, or water pump.
16. Glow Plug Indicator (Diesel)
A glow plug symbol indicates there is an issue with the glow plugs or the glow plug control system.
17. Fuel Filter Level Warning
A fuel filter level warning light means that the water-trap in the fuel level is full and needs to be emptied
18. Power Steering Level Symbol
A power steering level warning light indicates the power steering fluid level is low or an issue with the level sensor
19. Electronic Throttle Control Light
An electronic throttle control warning light (ETC) indicates there is an issue with the engine’s electronic throttle body or the system
20. Particle Filter Warning (Diesel)
A diesel particulate filter warning light indicates there is an issue with the diesel particulate filter system (DPF), or the particle filter is full and needs regeneration or replacement
21. Low Fuel Level
A low fuel level symbol means that the fuel tank level is low or there is an issue with the fuel level measuring system. There could also be an arrow, indicating which side your gas cap is on.
22. Catalytic Converter Warning
A catalytic converter warning light indicates there is an issue with the catalytic converter control system or the catalytic converter is damaged.
23. Master Warning Light
A master warning light normally shows up together with another warning light and means that there is an issue with your car. Let a mechanic take a look.
A blinking or flashing engine light indicates there is an issue with your engine ongoing right now. A flashing light is normally triggered by a misfiring engine. Read more.
Drivetrain Symbols & Warning Lights
The drivetrain car dashboard lights and symbols include everything from transmission out to wheels. As we told you before, red lights should always be looked at immediately!
25. Transmission Temperature Warning
A transmission temperature warning light indicates the transmission temperature is too high or an issue with the temperature measurement
26. Traction Control Off
The traction control off symbol means that the traction control is manually switched off.
27. Powertrain Fault
A powertrain fault symbol indicates there is an issue with the powertrain or drivetrain system like the 4WD or AWD system for example.
28. Overdrive Off indicator
An overdrive off symbol means that the automatic transmission overdrive system is switched off. Read more
29. Parking Brake Light
A parking brake warning light indicates the parking brake is engaged or there is an issue with the parking brake system
30. Differential Temperature Warning
A differential temperature warning light indicates the differential temperature is too high, or an issue with the measurement system.
31. DTC Warning Light
A DTC warning light means that there is an issue with the BMW traction control system
32. ESP BAS
An ESP BAS warning light indicates an issue with the electronic stability program or brake assist program
33. Automatic Gearbox Warning
An automatic gearbox warning indicates an issue with the automatic transmission or the system controlling it
34. Brake Pad Warning
A Brake pad warning light means that the front or rear brake pads are worn and need to be replaced.
35. Brake Warning Light
A brake warning light indicates an issue with the brake system. This should be checked immediately because you may lose your brakes otherwise.
36. Service Vehicle Soon
A service vehicle soon symbol indicates there is an issue with the ABS, traction control, or electric suspension system
37. 4WD Engaged Indicator
A 4WD engaged symbol means that the four-wheel-drive system is engaged.
38. 2WD Engaged Indicator
A 2WD engaged symbol indicates the 4WD system is switched off and the car is sending power to two wheels only
39. All Wheel Drive (AWD/4WD)
An All Wheel Drive symbol indicates that the AWD or 4WD system is engaged.
Safety symbols should be taken very seriously. Especially if it’s a red danger light, you are looking at! It can often be a question between life and death if you are unlucky.
40. Hazard Lights On
A hazard lights symbol means that the hazard lights are turned on
41. Door Ajar Symbol
A door ajar symbol indicates that one of the doors is open or there is an issue with the door switch system
42. Hood Open
A hood open symbol indicated that the hood is not closed properly. A not secured hood is very dangerous to drive with at higher speeds
43. Lane Departure Warning
A lane departure warning light indicates the vehicle is moving out from the lane without signaling
44. Forward Collision Warning
A forward-collision warning light means that there is a potential collision detected.
45. SRS Light
An SRS warning light indicates there is an issue with the airbag or supplemental restraint system. Read more
46. Seatbelt Indicator
A seatbelt symbol indicates one or more seat belts are not closed or there is an issue with the system. Check both the driver and passenger sides and the rear seats on some car models.
47. Side Airbag Warning Light
A side airbag warning light indicates the side airbags are turned off or there is an issue with the side airbags.
48. Power Steering Warning Light
A power steering warning light means that there is an issue with the power steering system
49. Icy Road Warning Light
An icy road warning light indicates the outside temperature is cold and that there is a risk of an icy road. Slow down!
50. Distance Warning
A distance warning indicates the front radar detected that your vehicle is too close to the car in front or is being approached too quickly
51. Bonnet Open
A bonnet open symbol means that the bonnet is not closed properly or an issue with the bonnet lock switch
Vehicle lighting symbols are connected to your car’s lighting system. These colors may be blue, green, or yellow in color and often represent certain functions of the vehicle like turn signals or hazards lights for example.
52. Headlight Range Control
A headlight range control warning light indicates there is an issue with the headlight range control system
53. Exterior Light Fault
An exterior light warning light indicates an issue with one or more exterior lights, usually faulty light bulbs.
54. Highbeam Light Indicator
A high beam light symbol means that the high beam lights are turned on
55. Auto High Beam Lights
An auto high beam lights symbol means that the auto high beam system is turned on
56. Position Light Indicator
A position light symbol will turn on when the headlights are switched off and the position lights are on
57. Low Beam Indicator Light
A low beam light symbol is turned on when the low beam headlights are turned on
58. Front Fog Lights On
A front fog light symbol is showing up when the front fog lights are turned on.
59. Rear Fog Light On
A rear fog light symbol is showing up when the rear fog lights are turned on.
60. Turn Lights Warning Symbol
A turn light warning symbol indicates that there is an issue with the headlights turn-light system.
61. Windshield Defrost Indicator
A windshield defrost symbol indicates that the windshield defrost is turned on
62. Rear Window Defrost
A rear window defrost symbol means that the rear window’s defroster is turned on
63. Cruise Control On Indicator
A green cruise control symbol indicates the cruise control is switched on and engaged.
64. Cruise Control Warning
A cruise control warning symbol indicates there is an issue with the cruise control or throttle control system
65. Cruise Control Speed Limiter
A cruise control speed limiter symbol means that the cruise control system will limit the max speed.
66. Cruise Control SET Indicator
A “SET” symbol indicates that the cruise control is set to a fixed speed and trying to hold the speed.
67. Shift Up Indicator
A shift up symbol indicates that it’s time to shift up to a higher gear
68. Shift Down Indicator
A shift down symbol means that it’s time to shift down to a lower gear
69. Auto Windshield Wiper
An auto windshield wiper symbol indicates that the auto wiper system is turned on.
70. Recirculated Cabin Air
A recirculated cabin air symbol indicates that the car will recirculate the air inside the car instead of taking air from the outside of the car
71. Heater Blower Fan On
A heater blower fan symbol means that the blower motor is turned on.
72. Heated Seats On
A heated seat symbol indicates that one or more seats’ heating system is turned on.
Here is a list of other common dashboard symbols and lights that didn’t fit in any of the categories we’ve covered so far. Remember, there are hundreds of different ones if you include all car models but these are some examples!
73. Hill Descent Control
A hill descent control symbol indicated that the hill descent system is turned on and will limit the car’s speed while going downhill.
74. Steering Lock Warning Light
A steering lock warning light means that there is an issue with the steering lock or that the car key is not recognized
75. Brake Fluid Level Warning
A brake fluid level warning indicates that the brake fluid level is too low, or there is an issue with the measurement system.
76. Key Not in Vehicle Indicator
A Key Not in Vehicle symbol indicates the car’s immobilizer system can’t reach or recognize your car key
77. Immobilizer Indicator
An immobilizer symbol means that it can’t reach or recognize your car key, or an issue with the immobilizer system.
78. Ignition Switch Warning
An ignition switch warning symbol indicates that there is an issue with the ignition switch system.
79. Low Electric Battery Charge
A low electric battery charge symbol indicates that it’s time to charge your electric vehicle’s battery
80. Brake Lights Warning
A brake light warning indicates that the brake lights are not working.
81. Air Suspension Warning
An air suspension warning symbol means that there is an issue with the air suspension system.
82. Suspension Warning Light
A suspension warning light shows up when there is a malfunction with the electric suspension system.
83. Car on Ramp Mode
A car on ramp mode warning symbol turns on when the car’s tires are raised up in the air or when the repair mode is activated
84. ECO Mode On Indicator
An ECO Mode on symbol indicates that the Economy system is turned on. Read more
85. Rear Spoiler Warning
A rear spoiler warning light indicates that there is a malfunction in the rear spoiler electric system
86. Lane Assist
A green lane assist symbol indicates that the lane assist system is turned on.
87. Exhaust Fluid (Diesel)
An exhaust fluid warning light means that the exhaust fluid (AdBlue) level is low in your diesel car.
88. Convertible Roof Warning Light
A Convertible Roof Warning Light indicates that the convertible roof system is opening or closing
89. Blue Coolant Temp Light
A blue engine temperature symbol means that the engine is still cold and you should drive carefully.
90. Information Symbol
An information symbol indicates that there is an issue with your car and there is a new message is stored in the information display
Frequently Asked Questions
What do car dashboard symbols mean?
There are over 100 different car symbols, so to see each meaning, you must check your owner’s manual for your particular car model. Red generally indicates stop or danger, and yellow is for caution (visit a mechanic). Blue, green, and white means everything is normal and a system in your car is on and operating.
However, it’s important to note that different car models sometimes use different colors for similar warnings, so it’s always best to check your owner’s manual before taking any action.
What does a flashing dashboard symbol mean?
A flashing check engine light or another flashing symbol usually means there is a major issue with the system or that the problem is occurring at the moment. Severe damage or safety issues can occur if a flashing dashboard symbol is not addressed. Therefore, if you see a flashing dashboard symbol you should get in touch with a mechanic as soon as possible. However, this depends on the car model and sometimes a flashing system just means a system is operating.
What are the symbols on the dashboard for?
The symbols on the dashboard indicate the operation of various systems and devices in your car. For instance, a picture of a yellow engine means there is an issue with the engine system. A green light bulb means that the headlights are on. There are many other symbols, and they can vary depending on the make of your car. You can usually find an explanation of all the symbols in your car’s owner’s manual.
What are the main dashboard warning lights?
The main dashboard warning lights used by most car manufacturers are the check engine light, ABS light, oil pressure warning light, airbag indicator, battery charge light, coolant overheating light, and low washer fluid light.