Warning, Warning, Warning!

5 01 2011

Dale BertramWhat question does most everyone ask when they see a light on the dashboard illuminate?  Is it okay to drive my car?  It all depends.

You will almost always see your oil pressure warning light illuminate briefly when you first start your car.  It goes off almost immediately.  If it doesn’t you need to turn off your car and check the engine oil level.  If it is low, add some oil then turn the car back on.  If the light goes off and stays off you are good to go.  If it is still illuminated do not drive the vehicle, turn it off immediately and call your car’s service provider as soon as possible.  This may require a tow.

A temperature warning light is telling you that your engine is overheating.  Pull over and turn your car off immediately! Do not check anything yourself until the engine has sat for at least half an hour.  Attempting to remove the radiator cap before then can result in serious steam and water burns.  If you know what you are doing you can remove the cap and check the coolant mixture level when it is safe to do so and add the appropriate 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water. Also be sure to check for leaks.  Internal leaks can only be checked by pressure testing. Unless you are experienced in this area of car repair, it is best to get your vehicle towed to your car’s service provider.

The brake warning light comes on and stays on when you engage the parking or emergency brake.  Check that first!  If you disengage the parking brake and the light goes off, you are fine. It can also mean you have a fluid leak.  This causes your brakes to fail or veer to one side when applied. Get your brake fluid checked as soon as possible. ( If you have an ABS or antilock brake light illuminate and remains on it is telling you there is a problem within this system.)  Though you can drive with this situation, get it checked out as soon as you can because this is a critical system in an emergency or on slick roads. If both the ABS and brake warning light are on and stay on at the same time do not drive the vehicle until it has been looked at by a professional.

If your alternator warning light is on it is most likely telling you that your charging system is not working properly.  You need to get this taken care of sooner rather than later as your battery will die. It could be indicating another problem such as a slipping drive belt but either way, it needs to be checked out as soon as you can.

Of course the one I hear about the most is the check engine light.  That orange light used to put fear in the hearts of drivers but now it seems drivers are more than capable of ignoring it mile after mile.  This is because a lot of the time it is just telling you your gas cap isn’t on tight enough or some other small item.  Of course this small item causes you to waste fuel and pollute the environment so it really isn’t insignificant.  It is always best to have your vehicle looked at as the check engine light means something is wrong and a diagnosis is definitely called for.

Whenever a light on your dash illuminates and doesn’t go off after a few seconds you can also refer to your owner’s manual. It generally explains the meaning behind the illumination and if it is safe to continue driving until you can get your vehicle serviced or repaired or call your service provider right away. 

Happy Motoring!

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