Existing Customer Portal

14th October 2021

Dashboard warning lights every British driver should know

Technology may have made it easier than ever for Brits to drive, but there are still some warnings drivers can’t ignore on their dashboards.

Car Insurance from just £125 per year

Modern car technology has transformed the way UK drivers travel, from reverse cameras to your vehicle notifying you when it’s due a service. 

But as technology has evolved there are sure to be check lights on your dashboard that Brits are unsure as to what they mean.

Here we break down the most common check lights Brits are likely to encounter when driving. 

It is worth noting that if your car’s dashboard lights up with a red warning light, your vehicle will need immediate attention. If it is amber or orange then your vehicle will need to be checked out by a garage.

Common dashboard lights Brits should know

Check engine light

One of the most common dashboard lights is the check engine light. Should this appear on your dashboard it is imperative you get your car checked as soon as possible. Some drivers will assume it’s fine to continue driving, but what drivers may not know is continuing to drive with this light can cause further damage to your vehicle as it appears for a wide range of issues. While it’s most likely to be a faulty sensor or minor issue, a proper diagnosis is critical to prevent potential damage.

If the warning light is flashing whilst you are driving, you will need to avoid high speeds and quick acceleration and stop the vehicle when it is safe to do so. Restart your vehicle after a few minutes and check if the light is still flashing. If it is then you will need to turn your engine off and call your breakdown provider.

Battery charge warning light

Modern cars will come with a battery charge warning light which can indicate a number of things about it’s charge and the system’s battery as a whole. A faulty battery can also lead to other problems with your vehicle, like your headlights failing or your power steering.  

It could just be that your battery needs charging as it may have gone flat, but if the problem persists you should inevitably get it checked out.

If the battery light is red while you’re driving, the fault will need to be looked at immediately as the battery isn’t charging correctly.

Brake system warning light

By now you may have realised that lights can mean a number of things, as opposed to just one glaring fault. The brake system warning light is no different. It may be you’ve left the handbrake up slightly while pulling away, so ensure it’s fully released. However if that doesn’t solve the issue, or the warning light appears as you’re driving, pull over safely and call for roadside assistance or arrange for the car to be taken to a garage.

It could mean your brake fluid level is too low and needs topping up, or your brake pads may be worn out. Your brake system is certainly not a light you can take lightly as it may put yourself and other road users at risk. 

Anti-lock brake system (ABS) warning

Should the ABS light make an appearance on your dashboard you should in theory still have access to your normal unassisted braking capabilities, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on while on the road. Like your brake warning, this needs to be checked immediately.  

If it comes on with the brake warning light, it could signal the brake system is failing.

Low-fuel warning

During the recent HGV driver shortage many British drivers will have encountered this warning light as petrol became scarce recently due to a lack of transport. This one also is “what it says on the tin”. Should this light appear, you need to fill up your vehicle with fuel.  

While some drivers may play a game of how long can I last with my low fuel light on, this can be dangerous as you may conk out at any moment if you’ve been driving with the light on for long enough. 

It could also signify you have a fuel leak if it appears in a short time since your last refill. 

Temperature warning

If you see the light on at any time after start-up, it could mean the engine is too hot or there is not enough antifreeze in the system to cool the engine down. It could also mean your water pump is faulty or your radiator is either leaking, broken or clogged. A more costly explanation could be that your head gasket has blown.  

Should this light appear you should stop safely and immediately as leaving the engine running for too long while too hot can cause major damage to your vehicle. 

Tyre-pressure sensor

Tyre-pressure monitoring systems constantly monitor the amount of air in the tyres.

If it detects a drop, it’ll provide a warning. This is important, because low tyre pressures can adversely affect braking and cornering and a sudden drop in pressure can cause a dangerous blow-out at high speed. If the system alerts you to low pressure, you’ll need to check and inflate the tyre. If it has an obvious puncture, you’ll need to change the wheel or use a puncture repair kit.

Oil pressure warning light

An oil warning light is one of the most serious warning lights of all. Oil pressure is generated by the oil pump keeping the engine oil circulating and by the quantity of oil in the engine. A leak, a faulty pump or too little (or even too much) oil can cause damage to the engine, very likely resulting in huge repair bills or even a write-off.

While you should never ignore any warning light, this one is especially important to heed; stop the engine immediately and let the engine cool and check the oil level. Do not drive the car.

Consider taking out quality breakdown insurance

Sterling breakdown cover is available from £25.42 a year. You can arrange Roadside Recovery or the reliable Home breakdown service, whether your vehicle breaks down in the UK, Europe or further afield.

For motorists who need a breakdown service in an emergency, Sterling’s instant cover provides immediate help. Prices for instant breakdown insurance start from £173.60 for cars and motorbikes and £190.40 for vans, 

Why choose Sterling for instant breakdown cover?

Instant breakdown insurance cover includes roadside assistance and recovery and Home breakdown services anywhere in the UK. Sterling can also arrange recovery and transport to a local garage or home address within 20 miles of the breakdown if they cannot solve your problems at the roadside.

Sterling Rescue can call on a network of 1,800 breakdown recovery specialists and local garages providing total UK coverage.

Trained staff are equipped with the most up to date mapping technology to provide a fast and efficient service when you need it most.

Related blog posts