A warning symbol lights up on the dashboard: Can you continue driving or should you stop? A simple rule of thumb provides orientation.
You always seem to get stuck in a traffic jam when you need it the least. It usually happens very similarly with defects in the car: Now of all times! The danger is that if a warning light pops up on the dashboard when you're in a hurry, you'll tend to keep driving. It will still go to the destination or the workshop. This is indeed the case with some faults – but there are also some warning lights where you should park the car. And pretty fast.
Warning signs in the car: when it is better to stop quickly
But when is it better to stop? Basically, the illuminated symbols in the dashboard can be read quite simply like a traffic light: green means everything is fine, free travel. Caution is advised with yellow, you should usually carry out an inspection quickly or visit a workshop as soon as possible. With red, on the other hand, it becomes critical, now it should be acted quickly. Whether you should stop immediately, however, is ultimately decided by the symbol in question. Generally important: Information about the problem indicated by a warning light is always provided by the car's owner's manual – the symbols do not have exactly the same meaning for every vehicle.
You should know the importance of the warning lights in the car – in an emergency, the operating instructions will help. (Symbolic image) © Armin Weigel/dpa
Indicator lights in the car: Not every red symbol means that you have to stop quickly
Not every red light means that you have to stop immediately – an example is the seat belt warning: If it lights up, this does not indicate a defect, but that a passenger is not wearing a seat belt, which of course he has to do immediately – exceptions to the seat belt requirement are only available in a few cases. The situation is quite different with the thermometer warning light, for example: If it comes on, the engine threatens to overheat. Now it's time to stop at the next possible opportunity and let the unit cool down. Only after cooling down can it be checked whether there is too little coolant in the system – before that, there is a risk of scalding. If there is not enough coolant, you can often fill up with tap water - whether this is possible, reveals the operating instructions.
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Indicator lights in the car: If the oil can lights up red, it becomes critical
Swift action is also recommended if a red oil can with a wavy line underneath is displayed: Then you should check the oil level as soon as possible – but only after waiting a few minutes after parking the car, as TÜV Nord explains. If, on the other hand, only a red oil can can be seen, it may already be too late, warns the ADAC. Then the engine oil pressure is too low and oil has to be topped up – often even a visit to the workshop is necessary afterwards.
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In addition, there are symbols that can have several meanings, as the automobile club explains. For example, the red exclamation mark in a circle. For almost everyone, this should have lit up more than once: Because it indicates that the handbrake is still on. However, if it still lights up when the handbrake is released (in winter it can also be frozen), it can be very dangerous: because the light can also indicate an imminent brake failure because the brake fluid has dropped or the brake pads have already worn out completely.
Indicator lights in the car: Don't ignore yellow symbols either
But yellow indicator lights should not be ignored either. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Engine block indicator light: There are many possible reasons for the illumination - among other things, for example, a marten bite on a cable can be to blame. As a rule, the only thing that helps here is a visit to a workshop.
- ESP indicator light (car with serpentine lines): If this symbol lights up continuously, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is switched off – or defective.
- Tire indicator light (tire with exclamation mark): In general, this symbol means that something is wrong with the tire pressure. However, there is also the possibility that, for example, the air pressure sensors are not calibrated. In case of doubt, a look at the operating instructions will also help here. Even if you don't have sensors, you should be wary of certain signs that indicate a puncture.