What Are All Those Dashboard Warning Lights?

As we progress further into the age of technology, our autos tell us more about their functions, and when they need help. Of course, any car is going to have a speedometer, odometer, and fuel gauge. Most cars also come with trip meters, and those nifty little readouts that show how much fuel you’re burning.

One of the first things you should do when you get a new car in the Chippewa Valley area is look through the manual to learn what’s on your dashboard, and what it all means.

Dashboard Warning Lights

Although every car’s lights are different, below are some of the most important warning lights you can expect to see on your vehicle, and what they mean.

Check Engine LightThe check-engine light usually indicates a fault related to emissions or other running concerns. Do not ignore this light, and do not take your cue from sitcoms and just tape over it. Get to a mechanic ASAP.

The low fuel light is pretty important. Fuel up immediately when this comes on.

The oil pressure light tells you that your car does not have enough motor oil in it to run safely. Stop at the nearest gas station and add oil, and then get an oil change as soon as possible, and ask your mechanic to check for leaks.

The seatbelt reminder is pretty self-explanatory. It is easily turned off by—you guessed it—putting your seatbelt on.

When the brake system alert light comes on, you should get your car into your mechanic as soon as possible, as driving with failing brakes is one of the most dangerous things you can do.

Temperature WarningThe temperature warning light comes on when your car is overheating. With our long Wisconsin winters, this shouldn’t be a major problem, unless something actually needs to be fixed in your car. A quick fix for this is to pull over and wait until the engine cools off. Putting some antifreeze in your radiator may help, but these are temporary fixes, and you should see your mechanic as soon as possible after this has happened.

The ABS light will come on if there is a problem with your ABS brake system. It may reduce the effectiveness of your brakes in rainy or icy weather. Have the system checked by a mechanic if this light comes on.

Be Prepared

With a new car purchase comes a new insurance policy. At Baldwin Woodville Insurance , we want to make sure you are as safe as possible. If you would like, your Western Wisconsin insurance agent will go through your new owner’s manual with you to figure out what all of the lights mean.

Auto Safety Tips


Auto safety begins with proper maintenance. Be sure to get regular oil changes at your Chippewa Valley dealer, or a full-service shop that will also check and top up all fluids. At the same time, have your tires rotated, and your spare tire checked for damage. Between maintenance checkups, if your check engine light happens to come on, don’t ignore it! Bring your car to your trusted mechanic.

While Driving

  • Follow the traffic laws. Wisconsin traffic laws can be found here. One important law to follow is to restrain all passengers. Children under 12 should be in the back seat, and child safety seats should be used as required. Pets should also be restrained while driving, whether in a carrier or a specialized pet seat belt.
  • Don’t drive when you are tired. If you start thinking it would be logical and safe to close your eyes for the count of 2, or 3, or anything, pull over, and rest before continuing. If you have taken medication that says “Don’t operate heavy machinery,” do not drive a vehicle.
  • Try not to drive in bad weather. If you absolutely must, leave in plenty of spare time, and drive as slow as you need to in order to feel safe. If a sudden burst of even WORSE weather comes up, pull over and wait it out, leaving your lights on so other drivers can see you.
  • Be careful when changing lanes. Look in the rearview mirror, side mirror, and blind spot, while signaling that you are going to change lanes. If a driver rudely speeds up to close your spot, allow them to pass before changing lanes. Never act on road rage—your own or someone else’s.
  • Obey the speed limit, unless the traffic around you is driving significantly faster. It can be safer to go 5 mph over the speed limit than to drive too slow.

In Case of Accident

If, despite all your best efforts, you get into an accident, think safety first. Be very careful where you meet the other driver. Keep your temper. Exchange insurance information and take as many pictures as you can. If there are injuries, call 911 immediately. Your next call (or first call if no injuries) needs to be to your Baldwin Woodville agent. Your agent will tell you exactly what to do, and help you through the entire process of dealing with the results of the accident, no matter who was at fault.