What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Part of owning and driving a car includes knowing how to maintain and take care of your vehicle correctly. Cars are like kids; they need tender loving care to not break down on you when you least expect it. It takes more than just knowing how to operate a vehicle. Properly taking care of it is a whole different beast. Like any other relationship, cars actually speak to you through different signals like warning lights or beeping sounds.

Dashboard • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Right where you sit, in front of the steering wheel, you will find the dashboard where you can see the usuals: Speedometer and Fuel Gauge, which is usually accompanied by the Temperature Gauge, Tachometer, Oil Pressure Gauge, and Voltmeter. Ever noticed the small icons whenever you start your car’s engine? These symbols help us find out what our car is feeling, allowing us to figure out how the condition of the vehicles is.

Deciphering these symbols is not an easy feat so, we’ve put together the common symbols that you would find lighting up when things go down south (well, hopefully not).

Engine Warning (Check Engine Light)

Check Engine Light • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Your check engine light usually turns on before starting your car. If you see this light up while you are driving, best to immediately pull-over as it may indicate serious damage to your engine if left ignored. You may call assistance from your trusted mechanic to help you find out what the real problem might be.

Engine Temperature Warning

Engine Temperature Warning • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Seeing this light up means that your engine is overheated. While there are many factors to this, especially here in the Philippines, due to the extreme heat, you should immediately pull-over and let your radiator cool down. Fair warning: cautiously remove the radiator cap as it will pop-off like a bullet as there is hot steam looking for a way out. Also, while cooling the car engine, keep the engine running to let the water or coolant circulate further into the engine.

Oil Pressure Light

Oil Pressure Light • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

No, this is not a gravy boat, nor is it the genie’s lamp. This is the Oil Pressure Light that tells you if there is an issue with your car’s oil pressure system. This means that you are low on engine oil or your oil pump is not properly circulating fluid inside the engine. When this signal lights up, make sure to head on over to the next gasoline station to help refill with the correct engine oil for your vehicle.

Battery Alert

Battery Alert • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

One of the most common warning symbols that light up is the battery alert light. This stops you from getting your engine to start. This may also indicate that your battery terminals may be loose or damaged, or your alternator belt may be broken or is not charging your alternator properly.

Seat Belt Reminder

Seatbelt Reminder Light • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

This symbol simply reminds you to wear your seatbelt. This extends to your passenger as well. Here in the Philippines, we are all required to wear seatbelts while in transit inside the vehicle.

Tire Pressure Warning Light

Tire Pressure Warning Light • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Also known as the TPMS symbol, it indicates that the pressure in one or more of your tires is too low or too high. Driving in low- or high- pressure tires is unsafe and can cause additional damage to your vehicle. Tire pressure should usually be around 30 and 35 psi.

Low Fuel Indicator

Low Fuel Light • What does the symbols on your car dashboard mean?

Another common symbol that you’d usually encounter lighting up is the Low Fuel Indicator. This simply indicates that you are running low on gasoline. Best to stop by the nearest gas station and fill-up as having your car stalled due to fuel outage damages your car engine seriously. Make sure that you are using the correct octane rating for your engine as an additional precaution. You can check our guide on understanding octane rating here.

If you are still unsure of what the other symbols in your dashboard are, make sure that you read your owner’s manual. It really helps that you understand what your car is telling to avoid unnecessary repairs that will wear down your car faster than you think.

Louie Diangson
  1. Thank you for your good work, i have a little problem with my car oil pressure sign, it comes on when the engine becomes hot or I use air condition for a while, but if I don’t use air condition it doesn’t come on, i have use the car over one year , is still like that, I want to solve the problem please help me , thank you

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