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Tire Service Blog

Dashboard Warning Lights


Dashboard ImageDashboard warning lights are designed to alert the driver about malfunctions with the car that need attention. Most dashboard lights mean that there is a problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later, and some lights require immediate attention.

When you turn on your car, the dashboard lights flash for a few seconds so that you can see that the bulbs for those lights are working. This is called “proving.” The lights will turn off quickly unless something is wrong.


Check Engine Dashboard Warning Light

The Check Engine dashboard warning light comes on when the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) detect a problem that needs attention.

 OBD is a computer-based system that has been built into all cars since 1996 and in various forms in cars going back to 1980. The OBD can detect relatively minor problems, like a loose or missing gas cap, or problems that could have a severe impact to the engine or components like a malfunctioning catalytic converter. 

To determine what problem is causing the Check Engine light to come on, a mechanic will attach a scan tool to the OBD. The scan tool reads the code or codes that triggered the Check Engine light. The codes will lead the mechanic in the direction of what needs to be repaired.

If the Check Engine light comes on while you’re driving you don’t have to pull over right away, but you should get the vehicle checked within the next few days.  If the Check Engine light is blinking or is red, or you also have an associated power loss when it comes on, the problem is more urgent.  In that case, have the car checked as soon as possible; in the meantime, drive more slowly and avoid towing to reduce the load on the engine.


Tire Pressure Dashboard Warning Light

The Tire Pressure dashboard warning light indicates that at least one tire has low air pressure. If you don’t notice any immediate tire or handling problems, you can wait until the next time you pull over or stop for gas to check the tires and inflate as needed. 

Keep in mind that the low tire pressure may be due to a slow leak or, in some cases, a severe leak. If you continue to have problems with tire pressure, it’s a good idea to take your vehicle to a professional to have the tire checked and fixed if necessary.

The Tire Pressure Monitoring Light should go out after the pressures have been adjusted.  In some models, the vehicle may need to be driven for the light to go out.


Oil Change Reminder Dashboard Warning Light

The Oil Change Reminder dashboard warning light is reset by the mechanic at each oil change. It will turn on after a set number of drive cycles.  (Drive cycles take into account both the speed of the vehicle and the time since the last oil change.)  In a few cars, it lights up when the oil quality has deteriorated.

The Oil Change Reminder light means it is time to get your oil changed, so make an appointment or stop by your favorite shop to get it taken care of.

If you notice the light is still on after an oil change, drive back and ask the mechanic to reset it for you, or check your owner’s manual for instructions to reset it yourself.


ABS Dashboard Warning Light

ABS stands for Anti-lock Brake System. In slippery conditions or during emergency braking, ABS regulates the braking on each wheel to keep the wheels from locking, which allows the driver to maintain steering control. In those situations, the ABS light will flicker on the dashboard to show that the ABS is engaged.

If the ABS dashboard light is on all the time, even when the brake is not applied, that means that the ABS system is not working.  There could be a stuck caliper, a blown fuse, or something more serious. Take the car to your favorite mechanic to find out why the light is on and to obtain the necessary repairs.


Air Bag Dashboard Warning Light

When the Air Bag Dashboard Warning Light comes on and stays on or flashes, it indicates that there is a problem with one or more air bags in the vehicle. In other words, if the Air Bag Dashboard Warning light is on it means that the air bag will not deploy in the case of an accident. 

If your Air Bag Dashboard Warning Light is on or flashing, you should get it diagnosed and fixed right away. Your favorite mechanic will be able to hook up computer equipment to the car to discover where the problem is, whether it is a sensor, a malfunction with the bag itself, or something else. 


Pfefferle Tire and Automotive Service is a two generation, family owned and operated repair shop.  Our services include quick lube service, tires and auto repair, and routine maintenance.  What sets us apart from other shops?  Our technicians do not work on commission, so there is no need for them to oversell.  We like to say, "We advise and you decide!" 

Contact Pfefferle Tire and Auto Service to schedule your preventive maintenance appointment! (513) 829-1900



Image © iStockphoto.com/nataq


Written on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by pfefferle
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