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Dashboard Symbols: What Do They Mean?

Dashboard symbols are supposed to make it easy for you to know if something’s wrong with your vehicle, such as low tire pressure. Unfortunately, it’s become increasingly difficult to know what all these warning lights mean.

Tucked beneath those symbols and your vehicle’s instrument panel is the computer. The computer’s job is to monitor data sent to it by a network of sensors located throughout your vehicle—in the tires, the airbags, and the fuel tank, for example. If one of those sensors reports something’s wrong, say a door is open, the computer illuminates a warning light on your dashboard.

Most drivers are familiar with the standard symbols we see every day—the turn left arrow or the blue high beam light—but what about all the symbols you rarely see? Do you know what all those other dashboard symbols mean? Or what you should do when one of them lights up?

Over the years, vehicles have become increasingly complex. That means more systems to monitor, and more to report to you, the driver.

Today, there are more than 60 possible dashboard symbols that can appear on an instrument panel, and many of those symbols can vary in appearance depending on the vehicle’s make and model.

To help you quickly determine what a warning light on your dashboard means, we’ve found one of the most comprehensive guides to dashboard symbols.

Some warning lights indicate minor issues that can be inspected at a service centre soon; other warning lights require immediate attention. When you see a warning light, it’s best to safely pull over as soon as you can. Once you’re stopped in safe place, open your driver’s manual. It should explain what each symbol means and the action you need to take.

Is it your engine light? Read our post What Does it Mean When Your Check Engine Light is on?

Next to the engine light, one of the most important dashboard symbols you should know is your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) symbol. To learn more about TPMS and what to do if you see your TPMS warning light, read our post What is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System?

Are there any other symbols you’ve seen on a dashboard? How do you feel about the growing number of dashboard symbols?

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