Know your warning lights.

Everybody is familiar with the 'Check Engine' light and the 'Need Gas' light, but there are other critical lights you might not have seen before. It's important that you recognize these indicators and know what to do if they come on while driving.

This is the oil pressure warning light. Some vehicles have both an oil pressure light and an oil level light that look very similar. Check your manual to familiarize yourself with these important symbols.

The oil that lubricates your engine needs to be under pressure. If the oil pressure is lost, metal to metal contact can occur within seconds, causing severe damage to your engine. This light should never be on while operating your vehicle. If it comes on while driving, pull off the road immediately and turn off the engine.

You could have something as simple as a bad sensor. You could also be leaking or burning oil or have a failed oil pump. You aren’t going to know which it is on the side of the road. It’s best to call us or have it towed to a qualified repair shop to be assessed before any expensive damage is done. It’s worth the inconvenience of a tow even if it turns out to be a minor problem when the other scenario is a completely ruined engine.

This is the coolant temperature warning light, which indicates your engine is running too hot. Your car may also be equipped with a low coolant indicator, which looks like this. Check your manual to familiarize yourself with the indicators for your vehicle.

The coolant in your vehicle prevents the engine from overheating. An overheating engine can rapidly cause major damage. If the coolant temperature light or the coolant level light comes on while driving, pull over as soon as possible and turn off the engine. If steam is escaping from under the hood or coolant is draining under the car you have a leak. Do not continue driving; call a tow truck.

If no steam or coolant leak is apparent, let the engine cool down for at least 30 minutes and then check your coolant level. You can find instructions for safely doing this in your owner’s manual. Never attempt to open the radiator cap on a hot engine!

If the coolant level is low, you can add water to buy a little time to go straight to a repair shop and have your system checked. If your coolant is not low, reduce your speed, open the windows, and turn the heater and fan to maximum. If the light goes off within a minute, continue to a repair shop. If it comes back on after a few miles, pull over again and let the engine cool off before continuing. If it doesn’t go off at all, pull back off the road and call a tow truck.  Never drive with the coolant temperature light illuminated.

This is the charging system warning light. This is the most common icon, but your vehicle may differ. Check your manual for what it looks like on your vehicle.

If this warning light goes on while driving, the voltage being supplied to the battery is becoming too low for the electrical systems of the vehicle to operate (like the computer that runs the engine and transmission) which can cause the car to shut-off. The problem could lie in the battery or the alternator that supplies current to the battery so it can keep its charge.

If the alternator has failed, the vehicle will continue to operate solely on battery power for maybe 15 more minutes. Do not turn off the engine, as you may not be able to restart it. Turn off all optional electronic devices, including the stereo, vent fan, air conditioning, seat warmers, rear defroster, and any phone chargers.

This will help buy you the most time to get to a repair shop or find a safe space to pull off the road. If you are driving at night when the warning light comes on, you have even less time to pull over as the headlights are a major drain on the electrical system. Find a safe place to park as quickly as possible and call a tow truck.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your car we are here to help. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today. Regular preventive maintenance is the best thing you can do to keep your car running safely and hassle free.

Written by Hillside Automotive

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