While driving a car, you might notice the gauges malfunctioning or the illumination of some lights on the dashboard, which could also be called the instrumental cluster; these lights and gauges are the car dashboard signs used to give an instantaneous vehicle report to the car user.
Sometimes, explaining the behavior of these lights or needles to your mechanic or Car enthusiast friends without their presence could be frustrating if you don’t know with what name to call the lights or needles on the dashboard while explaining the situation. This is a situation mainly, when you are not sure what to do.
Well, you might believe you can send the pictures of the dashboard signs to your mechanic or friends so they can help you out or maybe do a little research on the internet, but what if you are in a situation where you cannot access the internet at that moment? All you can do is describe the issue through a phone call. This is why it is essential to know your car dashboard signs and names; this is precisely what this article is about!!
How do you read a dashboard?
The first thing you need to know on how to read a dashboard is the identification of car dashboard symbols and meanings. Without fully understanding these symbols and their meaning, it won’t be easy to read a dashboard. Some of the car signs and names are listed below:-
Car Dashboard Signs and Names In Eight Category:-
Category 1;- Safety Lights-Related Symbols
Airbag warning:- A symbol of someone sitting with the seat belt buckled having a circle ball at the front; this light comes on to inform you there is an issue with the airbag system; if the issue is not attended to, the airbag might be deployed when not needed and might not get deployed in an accident.
Trailer tow hitch warning:- A car hitch with a padlock symbol at its top; this light tells you there is an issue with the trailer tow hitch electric circuit if the light comes on when the vehicle is connected to a tow vehicle.
Bonnet open:- A symbol of a car with the hood opened. This light informs you whether your hood is open or not properly closed. But if you are sure you closed the hood properly but the light still stays on. Then there could be an issue with your hood open warning sensor circuit
Power steering warning light:- A symbol of the steering wheel with an exclamation mark beside it:- this symbol tells you there is an issue with the steering system; it could be an issue with deficient steering fluid, issue with the steering rack, or steering pump.
Air suspension warning:- A symbol of a car with two arrows, one arrow pointing upward while the other arrow points downwards, both arrows fixed at the car’s center. :- this symbol tells you that the air in the air suspension is insufficient; after an adequate test has been carried out on the air suspension. If everything seems fine, the issue might be caused by a faulty air suspension wiring circuit. This symbol should only illuminate for a vehicle with air suspension. If you do not have an air suspension and you have this code after you change the ECM/PCM, it probably means you have the wrong ECM/PCM.
Lane departure warning:- This is a symbol of the vehicle moving out of a lane; this warning also comes with an audio alarm, and for some vehicles, there is also a visual alarm. Once you see this warning comes on, it’s just trying to make you conscious that you are moving out of lane.
Distance warning:- This is a symbol of a triangle with a car front view at its center; this light comes on to inform you that you are close to an object, so you can be more careful to avoid any collision. This feature is not for every car model.
Seat belt not on:- This symbol stands for someone sitting on the chair with the seat belt buckled; this light is usually accompanied by a beeping sound to make you aware you have not buckled your seat belt properly or you have not buckled it at all.
Airbag deactivated:- a symbol of someone sitting with the seat belt buckled having a circled ball at the front, with the circled ball having an X sign fitted from its center. This light comes on to inform you there is an issue with the airbag system; if the issue is not taken care of, the airbag might not be deployed during a heavy collision.
Suspension dampers:- This symbol has an image like an air suspension (absorber)itself. This light indicates an issue with the air suspension system; probably, the air suspension is leaking and cannot hold air pressure, or it could not get inflated up to a particular level (pump issue).
Boot open:- A symbol of a car with the boot opened. This light informs you whether your boot is open or not properly closed. But if you are sure you closed the boot properly but the light still stays on, there could be an issue with your boot open warning sensor circuit
Door open:- this is a symbol of a car showing an open door for the side opening on the vehicle. This light comes on to alert you the door is opened, and the light also stays on so long you have not closed the doors properly.
Convertible roof warning:- this is a car symbol with two overhead arrow arcs, one points to the direction of the front windscreen, while the other one points to the direction of the rear windscreen. This light comes on when the roof is folding or unfolding
Category 2;- Ignition and steering Related Symbols
Ignition switch warning:- A horizontal key with a keyhole symbol at its top, This light symbol informs you there could be an issue with your ignition lock cylinder or your key’s teeth are worn out
Key not in the vehicle:- A symbol of a horizontal key having a question mark at its top for some vehicle models; it is a car with a key symbol on the dashboard. This tells you the vehicle’s already programmed key is not the one used in the vehicle (it activates the immobilizer).
Key fob battery low:- This is a key symbol with a battery light at its top; for some vehicles, it could appear as a key having three aligned arcs at its top. This warning light only comes on when the key fob battery is low, which could cause the vehicle not to respond to the key fob or respond to the key fob slowly.
Steering lock warning:- This is a symbol of a steering wheel having a key symbol below it or a padlock symbol around it for some models. This symbol indicates the steering wheel is locked in a position and cannot be turned freely as it is designed to be so.
Press clutch pedal:- This is a symbol of a yellow circle having a yellow foot at its center; this sign informs you that you need to press down the clutch pedal before the vehicle can start. This feature is mainly for manual transmission vehicles.
Glow plug/diesel pre-heat:- This is a coil-like symbol. It appears when the vehicle ignition is turned to the on position. This shows that it is preheating the engine for quick startup. Once the light turns off, you can start the engine. This feature is mainly for diesel Engines.
Category 3;- Filter and Fluids-Related Symbols
Water in fuel filter:-This is a symbol of a box with a drop of water image beneath it. This warning light tells you there is a reasonable amount of water in the fuel passing through the fuel filter.
Low fuel:- This is usually a symbol of a fuel station gas pump illuminated on the dashboard. When this light comes up, it means you are low on fuel. For some vehicle models, instead of the light coming up, the fuel gauge will be pointing at alphabet E, with a little yellow dot light illuminating close to it.
Washer fluid low:- This symbol is of a windshield wiper with two hook-shaped dots starting on the vertical line from the center of the windshield, representing the washer fluid spraying out of its injectors. This light informs you that the fluid in the washer fluid reservoir is low.
Dirty air filter:- This is a symbol of a rectangle made up of six circles at the top and six circles at the bottom, having two arrowheads with a bracket body passing through either the upward circle or the downward circle, depending on the vehicle model. This light comes on to inform you the air filter is clogged with dirt.
Diesel particulate filter warning:- This is a symbol of a rectangle with several dots. This light comes on to inform you the soot clogged up in the filter is high, and you need a long highway drive for the vehicle to be able to burn up the soot itself without any additional work done.
Fuel filter warning:- This is a cylindrical symbol with fluid droplets under it. This light turns on to inform you the fuel filter had trapped as much water it could from the fuel, and the water needs to be disposed therefore, the filter is not working effectively as it was supposed to. This symbol is common for diesel engines.
Category 4;- Speed Control-Related Symbols
Automatic gearbox warning:- This is a gear symbol, and at the center of this gear, there is a yellow exclamation mark on the dashboard. For some vehicle models, instead of this light, the drive selector light blinks continuously, or sometimes it just stays illuminated. When you have any of these lights in the dashboard, it tells you there is an issue with your transmission box, which needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible.
Speed limiter:- This is a symbol of the Speedometer gauge with the word Limit inscribed in it; for some models, the light has an arrow pointing to the speed needle while a balloon-like symbol is at the other edge. This light comes up when you set a limit to your speed, it helps you stay within the speed limit set and not go above it no matter how hard you push the accelerator.
Cruise control on:-This is a symbol of the Speedometer gauge with an arrow pointing to the speed needle. This light comes up when your cruise control is activated; it helps you to stay within the set speed limit while you cruise your vehicle.
Eco-driving indicator:- It has a written symbol of ECO on the dashboard. It comes on when the Eco mode is activated
Category 5;- Windscreen and wipers Related Symbols
Windscreen defrost:- This is a symbol of the windscreen with about three coiled vertical arrows moving inwardly to the windscreen. It comes on when the windscreen defrosts and is in action.
Rain and light sensor:- This is a cone symbol in which another cone has a slightly vertical line at its right side point to another cone at the horizontal of the vertical lines. When this light is illuminated, it tells you that rain is about to fall or is falling; this enables the wipers to come into action.
Winter mode:- This is a symbol of a mountain inscribed with a snowflake at its center. This light comes on when the winter mode of the vehicle is on, but this feature is not in all vehicle models.
Frost warning:- This is a snowflake symbol on the road. When this light comes on, it informs you that the outside temperature is below zero degree Celsius. So, don’t step outside without getting protected to avoid frostbite.
Rain sensor: This is a windscreen and wiper with a fluid drop symbol. This light comes on when the sensor is activated, and it senses rainfall.
Auto windscreen wiping:- Here, you will see a windscreen and wiper having the word “AUTO” as its heading. This light comes on when the automatic windscreen wiping is activated.
Rear window defrost: This is a rectangular box with usually three spiral arrows. This light comes on when you put on the rear window defroster to heat up and melt the ice on the rear window.
Category 6;- Service lights Related Symbols
Catalytic converter warning:- This is usually a rectangle in the shape of the catalytic converter with some Smokey-type vertical lines at its top. This light comes up when the catalytic converter overheats or is not working at its optimum capacity.
Fault problem:- This is a spanner symbol which indicates maintenance is needed as soon as possible.
Oil pressure low:- This symbol looks like an Aladdin cup with a drop of liquid from its mouth. It comes up when you have to top up the oil in your engine if it’s not due for maintenance.
Battery/alternator warning:- This is a battery symbol. This light turns on when the charging system works below its expected functionality. It could result from a failing alternator/alternator circuit or a bad battery.
Service required: It is a symbol of a car inscribed with a spanner at its center. For this car dashboard symbol, some Toyota and other vehicle models do have a Service Engine soon Light popping up on the dashboard instead of a car symbol inscribed with a spanner at its center. When any of this light comes up, the vehicle needs service maintenance.
Temperature warning:- This is a symbol of a thermometer for some vehicles and a gauge symbol for other Vehicle models. The light symbol pops up when the temperature is high, while for some vehicles, the gauge rises to the red zone. If the temperature light comes on or the temperature gauge rise above the middle point up to the red zone, it tells you your vehicle is overheating because your cooling system failed.
When this happens, you should park your car and let it cool. After it cools, check the radiator and top its coolant again before you resume your journey, but make sure you keep your eye on the temperature light or gauge. If the light comes on or the gauge rises above the regular limit, repeat the above procedure to avoid being stuck on the road if you are in a situation where you cannot get help. Then, after you get to a safer place, you should ensure you get your vehicle cooling system checked before you embark on another journey.
But if you can park your vehicle and get help immediately when you notice the temperature light gets illuminated or the temperature gauge is rising above average, please Do! Because if you do not perform the previous step of park-cool-refill coolant appropriately, it might lead to a more expensive repair.
Engine/emissions warning:- This is a symbol of an engine. This informs you there is an issue with the vehicle Engine, which needs to be checked as soon as possible
Rear spoiler warning:- This is a symbol of a car with a spoiler having arced two pointed arrows at an angle. This light comes on when there is a problem with the spoiler, which might reduce the brake and traction adequate capacity.
Category 7;- Lightning Related Symbols
Exterior light fault:- This is a Bulb like symbol with an exclamation mark at its center; it comes up when there is an issue with the exterior light circuit.
Adaptive lighting:- This is a cone symbol having an arrow arc at one end. This cone symbol faces left with some slant lines at its front. This light usually comes on when the adaptive lighting is activated. This symbol usually has an exclamation mark or a writing which states “adaptive lightning malfunctioning when there is an issue with the lightning. When you have a malfunctioning sign, the lightning will not adjust itself automatically as it should.
Headlight range control:- This is a cone symbol facing left with some slant lines at its front having arrows pointing outward at an angle attached to the first and last slant line ending. When this light is active, the headlight is at its brightest at full throttle and dims when the throttle is not pressed.
Sidelight information:- This is a Bulb like symbol, usually in color green which comes on when the sidelight is switched on.
Information indicator: This is a symbol of an “I” in a square box.
Main beam headlights:- This is a cone symbol facing left with some horizontal lines at its front. This light comes on when the main beam light is activated or turned on
Direction indicators:- These are two arrows, one arrow pointing left while the other arrow points right. These arrows help indicate the direction the driver intends to take. When the light comes on, it blinks, and only one of the arrows can blink at once if the direction indicator is activated.
Fog light (front):- This is another cone symbol facing left with some slant lines at its front crossed by a vertical line. This light comes on when the front fog light is activated or turned on
Fog light (rear):- This is also a cone symbol facing right with some slant lines at its front crossed by a vertical line. This light comes on when the rear fog light is activated or turned on
Category 8;- Brake Related Symbols
Brake lights warning:-This is a bracket-like image with a bulb that looks canceled out at its center, having an open bracket at its left-hand side and a closed bracket at its right-hand side. This light comes on to inform you that there is an issue with the brake light.
Press brake pedal:- This symbol of a green circle has a green foot at its center with an open bracket at the left-hand side and a closed bracket at the right-hand side. This sign informs you that you need to press down the brake pedal before shifting the gear lever from one place to another. If the brake is not depressed, the gear lever will be stuck in a position, and you will not be able to shift it. This feature is mainly for an automatic transmission vehicle
Parking brake light:- This is a bracket-like image with a P alphabet inscribed at its center with an open bracket at the left-hand side and a closed bracket at the right-hand side. This light mainly comes on when the hand brake is activated or when the brake reservoir is short of fluid.
Handbrake warning:- This is a bracket-like image with an exclamation mark at its center, having an open bracket at its left-hand side and a closed bracket on its right-hand side. This light mainly comes on when the hand brake is activated or when the brake reservoir is short of fluid.
ABS warning:-This is a bracket-like image with an “ABS” write-up at its center, having an open bracket at its left-hand side and a closed bracket at its right-hand side. Depending on the vehicle model, some models will have only the “ABS” writeup illuminated on the dashboard. When this light comes on, it tells you there is an issue with the ABS, and it needs to be checked As soon as possible.
Tyre pressure low:- This is a symbol of two brackets joined at the bottom by a zig-zag horizontal line with an open top having an exclamation mark at its center. This light indicates the vehicle tire pressure does not correlate with the vehicle’s standard tire pressure.
Brake pad warning:- This sign has a circle having a dotted open bracket at the left-hand side and a close bracket at the right-hand side. This light comes on to inform you your brake pads need to be checked and a possible replacement could be needed
Parking assist: This is a symbol of a Capital letter P followed by an ultrasonic wave in the direction of a driveway. When park assist is activated, the light triggers on, and your car helps in parking vehicle all you need to do when the park assist is activated is for you to know when to hit your brake pedal
Hill descent control:- This is a symbol of a car descending a steep grade. This light comes on when the steep grade is active. It helps to reduce tire slips by activating the brakes as the vehicle descends a steep grade.
Stability control off:- This symbol of a car has a spiral line drawn from both its front tires having the “OFF” word at the end of the spiral line. This light comes on when the stability control is off, and it simply means the abs will not do any extra work to help keep traction at the best capacity.
Q: What does (!) Mean in a car?
The bracket with an exclamation mark at the center is called the parking brake light; it is for the dashboard to inform you that the hand brake is still activated or you are low on brake fluid.
However, if you have sufficient brake fluid in your brake fluid reservoir and your hand brake is deactivated, but the parking brake light won’t go off on the dashboard, it is possible there is a short in the hand brake switch wire, or there is an issue with the brake fluid level sensor circuit.
Q: How many dashboard symbols are there?
The amount of light on your vehicle could vary due to the vehicle model and the features it has. Still, the maximum number of symbols the dashboard could have is sixty-four (64). However, it is always an uncommon situation for all the lights to get illuminated on the dashboard at once, so you might be unable to verify the number of symbols on your dashboard.
Q: What are the 3 main warning gauges on your dash?
The three main warning gauges on the dashboard are the temperature gauge which helps you monitor the temperature of your Engine, the fuel gauge, which tells you the amount of fuel left in the fuel tank; and the oil pressure gauge.
Q: What is the transmission light symbol?
The transmission light symbol is a gear with an exclamation mark at its center for some vehicles, while for some vehicles, the dsrive light blinks continuously on the dashboard. If you get any of these lights on your dashboard, the dashboard informs you that there is a possible issue with your transmission that needs to be checked as soon as possible.
Q: What are the 3 modes in a car?
The three modes in a car are:-
Normal mode:- This is the mode the car drives in when the Eco mode and the sport mode are deactivated.
Eco mode:- In this mode, the vehicle tends to change gears faster than the normal mode and the sport mode. This driving mode is believed to help save more fuel, but it depends on the driving habit. If you are driving up a hill and your eco mode is activated, you might use more fuel than the normal mode.
Sport mode:- The vehicle tends to dwell in lower gears more than if the vehicle is in the normal mode or the Eco mode before changing to higher gears, helping the vehicle attain optimum horsepower quickly.
Q: What is the most serious warning light in a car?
A continuous blinking CEL/MIL (Check Engine Light/Malfunction indicator Light) is the most severe warning light on the dashboard. This light blinking could range from a heavy misfiring in the engine to an issue with the ECM/PCM. This light can result in a no-start issue; it can also cause your vehicle to stall if the light starts blinking while you drive.
If your check engine light starts blinking while you drive, you should pull over at a safe place close to you to avoid the vehicle shutting off while still on the road.
Q: What are the things on your dashboard called?
The things on the dashboards are called dash indicators; these indicators consist of all 64 warning lights, the Tachometer, Speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge, temperature gauge, and (oil pressure gauge for some vehicle models).
Q: Which driving mode is best?
The best driving mode for you depends on your day-to-day driving habits and what you need at a particular time, but all you need to know so you can pick the mode that best suits you is that if all you want is to reduce your fuel consumption, the best mode in terms of fuel efficiency is the Eco mode.
If all you care about is more power, the best mode for you to get enough horsepower is the sport mode, while the Normal mode is just the combination of the two modes on average.
For every car owner or driver, knowing the car dashboard symbols and meanings is essential since this is the only way the car communicates its instant performance issues with the car owner or driver. Thus, adequate action to resolve the issues can be performed. Still, if the car owner or driver does not understand the meaning of these dash indicators, an issue that could be easily fixed through cheap repair could escalate into a more expensive repair. This is why you must understand the car signs and names.