If you find yourself perplexed by the plethora of warning lights and displays on your car's instrument panel, you're not alone.
If you find yourself perplexed by the plethora of warning lights and displays on your carís instrument panel, youíre not alone.A recent survey determined that a surprising number of U.S. motorists remain virtually clueless in this regard.
Conducted among 2,000 drivers by the website Insurance.com in Foster City, Calif., nearly half couldnít identify the tire-pressure or brake system malfunction lights, while 17 percent didnít even know what it means when the low-fuel-level light comes on.
While all the warning lights illuminate for a second when the car starts up, motorists should respond accordingly to those that stay on or light up while the vehicle is running to avoid a breakdown and the need for costly mechanical repairs.
Hereís a quick look at warning lights that can indicate mechanical problems and what do when they come on:
ē Anti-lock braking system. The ABS light indicates a problem with the braking systemís anti-lock function.Have a technician run a check as soon as possible, but be aware that in the meantime normal braking will not likely be affected.
ē Brake system. Appearing as either a circular symbol with an exclamation point or BRAKE, this illuminates when either the emergency brake is engaged or thereís a loss of fluid pressure in the braking system.
If the emergency brake is released, head directly to a repair center to have the braking system checked out. If itís difficult to stop the vehicle, pull over and call for assistance.
ē Check engine. When you see this message or a symbol that looks like a car engine, it usually indicates a problem with the vehicleís emissions system.
If the light stays on, take the car to a technician to have the problem evaluated.
If it flashes, the carís catalytic converter is overheating. Drive straight to a repair shop to avoid an engine fire and/or expensive repairs.
ē Electrical system: Appearing as either a car battery or ALT or GEN, this warns that the carís alternator is no longer sending electrical power to the charging system.
Since the battery will soon become depleted and cause the car to stop running, switch off the climate control and radio to preserve power and immediately drive to a repair facility. Otherwise, pull over and call for assistance.
ē Engine temperature: The carís engine is overheating when either a thermometer symbol or the word TEMP lights up.
Switch off the air conditioner and turn on the carís heater to its highest fan and temperature settings.
If the carís cooling system is simply overloaded in hot weather, this can help relieve the pressure and keep the car going for a time.
If the light does not go off, pull over and switch off the engine.
Check the carís coolant level from the reservoir (not the radiator cap) and replenish as necessary with a 50/50 percent mixture of antifreeze and distilled water.
If the light stays on after the car idles for a few minutes call for assistance.
If the light goes out and the car is drivable, take it to a technician to have the cooling system examined.
ē Oil pressure: When an oil can or the word OIL lights up it means the engineís oil pressure is low.
If this happens, pull off the road, turn off the engine and call for assistance to avoid engine damage.
ē Tire pressure: A cross-section of a tire with an exclamation point means one or more tires are underinflated.
Pull over and inspect the tires to see if one is flat or is significantly deflated.
If thatís the case, change the tire according to the manufacturerís instructions or call for assistance.
Otherwise, head for a gas station to refill the tire thatís low on air. Better yet, have a service facility inspect the tires for leaks or damage.