A Guide to Dash Warning Lights

A recent study found that younger drivers are “1.5x more likely to identify popular emojis correctly” than the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) dash warning light.

Who cares?


Well, while funny, the finding is also concerning. Dash warning lights are important indicators for things gone wrong with your car. Not understanding them can lead to unexpected and costly auto repairs.



Know about these dash warning lights and you’ll save time and money down the road


Do you know what the check engine light means? What about all the other lights that ocassionally pop up?

Here's the download:


Most warning lights require professional diagnosis and repair. You can learn really all you need to know from AutoZone. However, as you'll find, most solutions result in: bring your vehicle into the shop.


As a driver, you should have a good sense of at least the more severe dash lights so that you can prevent unexpected and costly auto repairs down the road.




Does it make more sense now? 😜 We hope that with the help of emojis, this guide to dash warning lights will.

TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)

The TPMS light indicates when one or more tires has low pressure (is going flat). This light is especially common in Colorado, where tire pressure can vary due to frequent fluctuations in outdoor temperature (so the TPMS light doesn’t necessarily mean there is a leak in the tire). Large leaks will make a tire lose air faster than small leaks will. It’s best to check and adjust tire pressure 1x/month or more (depending on the weather) to ensure you’re getting maximum life from your tires, as well as to ensure good fuel economy. If you’ve checked and adjusted tire pressure and this light still doesn’t go off, it’s time to bring your vehicle into the shop for a diagnostic.

Emoji equivalent: 😕

Check Engine/Service Engine Soon

Reasons for the check engine light can vary, ranging from mild to serious. Primarily an environmental concern, the light alerts when something had gone wrong with a vehicle’s emissions system which would allow it to pollute more emissions into the atmosphere. This is why for many vehicles in Colorado, you need to have the light repaired in order to pass an emissions test. The most common causes of the check engine light are a faulty catalytic converter, gas cap, O2 sensor, mass airflow sensor, or spark plugs and wires. It’s important to get the check engine light repaired, especially if it is flashing or blinking, because driving with it could cause further engine trouble.

Emoji equivalent: 😱

Oil Pressure Low

The oil pressure light tells you that the vehicle has low oil pressure. This is usually caused by some sort of leak or burst. A vehicle’s engine system is essentially a pressurized circulatory system, such as the human heart and veins. If there is a hole (leak) in this system, pressure will be lost, the light will go on, and it’s imperative that you check the oil level and get the vehicle into a shop as soon as possible. Failure to do so could mean engine damage.

Emoji equivalent: 😦

Airbag Warning

When the airbag light is on, it oftentimes means one or both airbags are malfunctioning. Typically when there is a fault in this system, one or both airbags will be inoperable until the cause of the light is diagnosed and repaired.

Emoji equivalent: 😟

Service/Maintenance Due

Frequently mistaken for the check engine light, the service or maintenance due light indicates it’s time for an oil change and/or other maintenance such as replacing burned out exterior bulbs. This light is reset by the technician after service and will come on either due to mileage, contaminants detected in the vehicle’s oil or an electrical fault detected by the BCM (body control module).

Emoji equivalent: 😎

Traction Control

This light comes on when the vehicle’s traction control system is in use, meaning the road is slippery. If the light stays on in normal conditions, it indicates there is a fault in the system.

Emoji equivalent: 😯

ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System)

The ABS, or anti-lock braking system light comes on when there is an issue with the system. The anti-lock braking system is what causes the brake pedal to pump up and down when your vehicle is skidding. To ensure a properly functioning anti-lock braking system, you’ll need to have the light diagnosed and repaired. Beware that sometimes when this light is on, you no longer have anti-skid function!

Emoji equivalent: 😬

Brake System

The brake light can indicate that the parking brake is engaged, the vehicle has low brake fluid or there is an issue with the ABS. Check the brake fluid level and make sure the parking brake is released. If the light stays on, bring your vehicle into the shop.

Emoji equivalent: 😳

Coolant Temperature

A vehicle’s cooling system keeps the engine from overheating. This light indicates that the coolant temperature is rising, or the engine is overheating. When this light comes on, you need to pull over and let the engine cool off then check the cooling system.

Emoji equivalent: 😡

Battery / Charging Alert

When the battery light comes on, it means the battery has low voltage and the charging system isn’t operating properly. This puts you at higher risk of your vehicle not starting. Have the battery and charging system tested at the shop.

Emoji equivalent: 😵

Transmission Temperature

This means the transmission is overheating. Similar to the engine, an overheated transmission can quickly lead to failure. Pull over and turn off your engine. Then check the coolant and transmission fluid levels.

Emoji equivalent: 😣

The first step to diagnosing the cause of dash warning lights is to scan codes that are stored in the vehicle’s onboard computer. These codes are just the beginning, however, as a complete and thorough diagnostic is necessary to confirm both the fault and the cause.


So, beware of what your dashboard warning lights indicate and give us a call or schedule an appointment to get it fixed!

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