Updated at: 31-05-2022 - By: Lucas

Have you ever started your car and looked at the dashboard to see a bunch of lights coming on and off? All of those systems are being checked by your car, so it’s normal for them to turn on and off like that.

Each of those lights means something, and while you can ignore them when they’re working right, you have to figure out what to do when one of them won’t turn off. In this article, we’ll talk about all of the warning lights on your dashboard, what they mean, and what you should do.

Even worse, if you don’t know the light is supposed to be there, it’s easy for the person selling you the car to take the light out. This could leave you with a broken-down car and no way to know about it.

Dashboard Warning Lights – All of them simply explained

dashboard warning lights

There are a lot of common dashboard lights. Some of them mean something is wrong, and others mean that your car is working as it should. So, which ones need to be fixed right away by a mechanic, and which ones can you handle on your own? Keep reading our guide to find out!

Check Engine Light

It is the most common type of light. It’s in commercials, and it’s probably the one you don’t want to see the most. That fear is a bit exaggerated. Your check engine light can mean a lot of different things, and most of them don’t have to cost a lot to fix. But some of them are very serious and will cost a lot to fix if you don’t take care of them right away.

Why it Could Be On

Your check engine light comes on when one of your car’s many sensors gives you a reading that isn’t in the normal range. Your check engine light could be on because you forgot to close the gas cap or because your ignition coils or spark plugs are broken.

Five Most Common Reasons for a Check Engine Light

Even though these are the most common reasons why your check engine light might be on, you should remember that there are hundreds of other codes that could be on. Connecting your car to an OBDII reader is the only way to know for sure what code made your check engine light come on. Almost every parts store, including AutoZone, will do this for free.

#1 Faulty Oxygen Sensors

By far, this is the most common reason why a check engine light comes on. Oxygen sensors break down over time, so every 50,000 miles you need to get a new one. The good news is that they’re not too expensive to replace, and if you’re even a little bit tech-savvy, you can usually do it yourself.

#2 Faulty Sparkplugs/Glowplugs

If your car runs on gasoline, it has spark plugs. If your car is diesel, it has glowplugs. Both need to be replaced often, even though they don’t do the same thing. Even though this is a common job that doesn’t cost much, you can do a lot of damage to your car if you don’t change the plugs right away.

#3 Loose Gas Cap

It happens a lot more than you think. When people leave the gas station and see the “Check Engine” light, they go straight to the mechanic. Most of the time, the sensor itself is fine. You just need to make sure your gas cap is all the way on.

#4 Mass Air Flow (MAF) Sensor

MAF sensors tell the engine how much air is being pushed into it. When all that air is being sucked in, sometimes small particles get past the filter and clog up the MAF sensor. Without knowing how much air is coming in through the intake, the engine can’t make important decisions like how much fuel to use and when to start the engine.

#5 Replace Thermostat

If your thermostat is broken, you’ll know it sooner rather than later. That’s because the thermostat tells the engine when to let the coolant out. If your thermostat is broken, your car will overheat and you will be stuck on the side of the road.

What to Do

ABS light. Car dashboard in closeup

If the only thing you notice is the check engine light and your car isn’t making any strange noises and seems to be working fine, you can take it to a local parts store and get the code read for free.

If you’re not sure if your car can get there, have someone read the code for you without moving the car. If you don’t know anyone who has an OBDII reader, you can buy one for as little as $10 at Wal-Mart or Amazon. Most of the time, you won’t need to do this. Even if your check engine light is on, you can drive your car to the mechanic or auto parts store as long as there are no obvious signs of a major problem.

What you do after you read the code depends on how much you know about how things work. You can try to fix the code yourself, or you can take it to a mechanic and have them fix it.

Still, you should always check the code before taking your car to a mechanic. This gives you an extra layer of protection because you know what the problem might be before you get there. So, if the mechanic tries to tell you that you need different repairs or that the problem was something else, you’ll know not to believe him.

ABS Light

Most of the time, your ABS light is a light that says “ABS.” Because not every car has antilock brakes, not every car has an ABS light.

But it’s a good safety feature that can keep you from getting into an accident, and if your ABS light is on, your anti-lock brakes aren’t working because when the light is on, the system is turned off.


When you don’t know what all those flashing lights on your dashboard mean, it can be a little overwhelming. But if you take them one at a time, you can be sure that when one comes on, you’ll know exactly what to do. Even better, you won’t get ripped off at the shop or dealership!