Your dashboard may not light the way to paradise like it did in the 70s hit. But if you know how to read your dashboard warning lights, you can keep auto repair hassles (and costs) to a minimum. Let’s take a look at the most common ones:

Engine Temperature

Your engine is too hot.  There could be several causes, including (but not limited to) low coolant, a leak in your cooling system, or a broken thermostat. While you find a safe place to pull over, turn up the heat and blower fan all the way, which will transfer heat away from the engine (don’t use the A/C!). Pull over, stop the car, and let the engine cool down—driving too long with an overheated engine can result in a range of problems, some of them very expensive to fix.

Tire Pressure

One or more of your tires is low on air—or possibly flat. Many of us don’t pay attention to our tires unless they’re VERY low or flat, so this light is a great help. But you should still check your tires regularly because depending on the car make and model, the pressure sensors kick in when a tire is already 25% low.

Oil Pressure

Some people think it’s a gas gauge for oil, but it’s not (the only accurate way to check your oil is with the dipstick). If your oil light is on, then your problem is worse than just being “down a quart.” Either your oil level is VERY low or something’s wrong with your oil pressure system. Oil isn’t getting to the cylinders in ample supply and costly damage could result. Get it checked out immediately.

Check Engine

This is kind of an all-purpose warning light for problems ranging from emissions issues to an improperly replaced gas cap. Mechanics have computers that connect to your car and diagnose the problem. (If you do your own repairs, some auto parts stores also have diagnostic computers.)

Anti-Lock Brake System

Have your ABS checked ASAP, because brakes.

Traction Control

Your car’s anti-skid system is malfunctioning or failing—another issue to have checked out immediately.


Your battery’s not low, but it will be soon, because when this light is on, your car’s charging system is out of juice. This is yet another ASAP repair.

Fuel Indicator

This one is tied with the tire pressure indicator for “most helpful warning light.” You’re reaching the bottom of your tank, so be on the lookout for a gas station. How much gas you have left can vary from car to car, so we strongly recommend you review your car’s operator’s manual to know for sure.

Wait, there’s more.

Your car may have other warning lights, especially if it has more advanced systems. Spend a little time with its operator’s manual so you know what they mean, and what you should do when they light up.

Not every dashboard warning light is telling you, “Pull over, stop the car, and get help NOW.” But when they do, a roadside assistance plan  can really save the day. You have lots of choices, including the Route 66 Extended Warranty that Pen Air offers its members.