Engine Warning Lights and Troubleshooting

The good thing about modern day cars is that they are loaded with computers and sensors. These basically take most of the guess work out of the diagnosis and troubleshooting process. In addition to the CHECK Engine Light (also called Malfunction Lamp) which we will talk about here, there are other and more important warning lights that you should be alert for.

1.) OIL WARNING Light : This basically means that the car is low on oil , it could be due a variety of reasons like oil leak , burned oil etc.  Stop the car immediately and check the oil level. If it is low , add it before driving.

2.) Temperature/Heat Warning Light : If this light comes on , or the heat gauge on the dash seem far higher than where it normally is  leveled at , stop immediately and check the coolant level. Not acting on this can be disastrous to your engine. I have heard too many stories where by the engine had to replaced ..just even by running with out coolant for a couple of blocks can cause permanent engine damage. See the figure below showing a gauge with a  high termerature. Engine can heat due to coolant leak, bad pump,thermostat ,fan or even when climbing a hill etc. Extreme case is where coolant can leak into the engine due to bad gasket. So if coolant is not handily available you can even use distilled water and some stop leak temporarily and  you can continue driving until the leak can be fixed. Check for leaks on the floor when adding coolant again and keep it under observation.

3.) Battery Charging Warning :- This means a problem with the charging system - but you can continue driving a few miles until you seek help It could be the alternator itself, failed charging regulator or the accessory belt is broken or even loose or corroded cables and terminals.  If the belt appears to be fine is able to spin the alternator, start the engine, and turn on the headlights. If the lights appear dull, it verifies the charging system has an issue.

4.) Braking system related warning Light : If this light comes on or stays on, check to make sure you dis-engaged the parking brake or lever. If the light persists, then it may mean a low brake fluid or other issue with the hydraulic system. It is critical and have the brake system inspected as soon as you can.

5.)  Tire Pressure warning : If you car is equipped with monitoring system ,and if this light comes on,check the air pressure in your tires as soon as possible, and inflate them to the recommended pressure. If the pressure loses again , there might be a leak and take the car in to a tire ship. I have had luck finding nails and sharp objects stuck in the middle of the tire , so take a good look  at the tires as well.

There are other less important warning lights that include :-, Seat Belt/Air Bag Warning , Door Warning and Service Reminder Lamp - Consult your user manual on the specific way to deal with these alerts.

To Summarise keep in mind that It is really important not to ignore these situations :

    Your  warning lights come on.

    You see colored fluid leaking from your car engine.

    You smell any peculiar odors coming from your car.

    You hear any funny grinding, groaning, hissing, squeaking, knocking (you get the idea) sounds coming from your car.

    These could be signs that something is seriously wrong with your car and immediate action is necessary.