Car Warning Lights – Part II

This is the Second part in the two part series of “Car warning Lights”

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Brake warning light 1

Most cars nowadays have a brake warning light on the dash. Its purpose is to alert you that something is wrong in the braking system somewhere. If it comes on, check your owner’s manual to find out its meaning. The brake warning light does not have a standard meaning; it could be used for multiple purposes. For example, the same light may be used to show that the hand brake is on. Americans call it parking brake for. If that is the case and you are driving, you ought to have noticed the smell of burning brake dust by now. The light can also indicate that the fluid in the master cylinder is low. Each manufacturer has a different use and standard for this light. Which is nice. Because it would be such a drag if the same indicator meant the same thing in every vehicle.

Brake warning light 2

If you have got an ABS-equipped car, you also have a second light – the ABS light. If it comes on, get it seen to as soon as possible. It means the ABS computer has diagnosed that something is amiss in the system. It could be something as simple as dirt in one of the sensors, or something as costly as an entire ABS unit replacement. Either way, if that light is on, then you, my friend, have got 1970’s brakes. It’s important to note that this light normally comes on when you start the car and then switches off a few seconds later. If it blinks, throbs, flashes or in any other way draws your attention to itself, then take note. It’s not doing that just to please itself. Compared to a steady light, a blinking ABS light normally indicates something more serious. In some cases it could be as bad as you have no brakes at all.

Coolant warning light

This is normally the coolant level warning light. If this comes on it means that the level of coolant in your radiator is low and needs topping up. But remember this at all costs – DO NOT OPEN THE RADIATOR CAP WHEN THE ENGINE IS HOT! The coolant system is pressurised and it could easily release pressure and spray you with boiling coolant. Do it when the engine is cold. Top up the system with either a pre mixed coolant bought from a shop, or with distilled water. Don’t use tap water – the mineral deposits in it boil out in the cooling system and calcium gets depositted around the inside of the radiator making it less efficient (which will eventually cause it to fail). It’s always best to use pre mixed coolant, or to mix your own rather than using neat water. The coolant mixture behaves as an antifreeze in winter as well as a corrosion-inhibitor to stop your engine rusting from the inside out.
oil pressure warning light

Oil warning light

Typically this light will come on if your oil pressure is too low. Low oil pressure is really serious and if you continue to drive with this light on, eventually your engine will die. Low oil pressure can be caused by a failed oil pump, a blocked oil filter or strainer in the sump, or by low oil levels – for example if your engine is burning oil. Either way, you need to get it fixed, and fast. Low oil pressure is A Bad Thing and your engine will not thank you for leaving this problem untreated.