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Can I Ignore Dashboard Warning Lights?

By raccars Published

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The simple answer is that yes, you can ignore dashboard warning lights - but be prepared for expensive repair bills if you do! Modern cars contain more and more complicated and very clever systems, to both protect us and make our lives easier, but like any electronic or mechanical device, these gadgets can also go wrong. Quite often the first warning you will have of a problem is an illuminated symbol on your dashboard. However, when it happens, do you know what it means? There are a number of warning lights on car dashboards which go ignored, simply because people don't know what to do about it.

If you notice a warning symbol light up on your dashboard and don't know what it means, the first step is to check your car owner's manual, which should contain a key, describing what the different lights mean. Unfortunately, many people don't have access to their owner's manual, usually if the car was bought second hand. Following is a description of the most commonly found warning symbols on a dashboard - your car may have a number of others, depending upon individual features and specifications. If you have any doubts about what a warning light means or how to fix a problem, go to a garage and ask for professional help.

Brake system light

This usually takes the form of an exclamation mark within a circle and coupled in brackets. Never ignore this warning light as the brakes are undoubtedly one of the most important components in any car. The light could come on to indicate a very simple problem, such as low levels of brake fluid, which is rectified very simply by refilling the brake fluid reservoir. However, the light could also be advising you about worn brake pads or problems with the car's anti-lock braking system (ABS). If you have checked the brake fluid level and it seems fine, get the brakes checked by a mechanic.

Engine management light

This light is universally hated because it is so non-specific. It's normal for this light to appear when you first start the engine but it should automatically go out a few seconds later. This light could indicate a number of problems, some of which exhibit other symptoms and some are invisible. Some cars come with an automatic protection system which will limit your power when this light comes. Most of the problems will be minor, such as a malfunctioning electrical sensor, or they could be major. If the light comes on while you are driving don't panic but try to curtail your journey and get the car checked as soon as possible. Some cars use a tiered system to indicate the seriousness of the problem - an amber or flashing light is a minor warning, while a red light can mean something more serious.

Airbag warning light

This light looks like a car passenger with a ball on their lap. If you notice it come on, it could mean your airbag will not inflate properly in the event of an accident or that it could deploy spontaneously. Either way, it's a problem which requires professional attention. Power steering light

Taking the form of a steering wheel with an exclamation mark next to it, this is also known as the EPAS light. If there is a fault with your power steering system you may notice your car is heavy to manoeuvre. You should check your power fluid steering reservoir and top up if necessary, and take your car to a garage to check for other faults. DPF light

Diesel car drivers may notice a light in the form of a box filled with dots, or dots running through a puff of smoke. It could mean your diesel particulate filter is blocked - don't neglect this, as if you have to change a neglected filter, it can be expensive.

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