What Do Those Dashboard Lights in Your Car Mean?

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New Vehicles Have More Dashboard Symbols Than Ever

As cars get more complicated, manufacturers have to cram more icons onto dashboards and information displays. Some of the newer icons are, to put it mildly, less than intuitive, especially if your car comes equipped with all of the latest active safety systems.

As always, you should get familiar with your vehicle’s owner’s manual, but this primer on dashboard symbols is a great place to start.

If a light comes on while you’re driving and you can’t remember what it means, the color will help you determine its urgency. In general, an indicator that lights up red means there’s a problem that needs your immediate attention and it may be unsafe to continue driving. A yellow or amber light generally means you need to have something checked out soon, but it’s not urgent. Depending on the indicator, it may also be letting you know that a system is working as intended (like the traction control system flickering amber when it’s helping you traverse a slippery road). Green indicators let you know a system or feature is on and working.

With that in mind, read on to see the most common – and a few less-common – dashboard light symbols.