How Well Do You Know Your Dashboard Symbols?

Test your knowledge with our dashboard light quiz. (No peeking at the owner's manual!)

1 / 12
brake warning light

Dashboard light #1

Answer: Brake warning light

When the brake warning light is on, it either means that your emergency brake is engaged or that your car has an issue with the brake system. The brake system involves the brake pads, braking fluid, and the brake lights that display on the back of your vehicle. All of those elements are very important to your safety when driving so if you see this light come on—and your parking brake isn’t engaged—it’s time to see a mechanic.

2 / 12
automatic shift indicator

Dashboard light #2

Answer: Automatic shift lock or engine start indicator

The ASL or engine start indicator light means that your car is locked in neutral or park and that you need to step on the brake to release the lock and shift the vehicle into reverse or drive.

If you tend to ignore your car dashboard lights, you should learn to spot these signs your car is about to die.

3 / 12
airbag symbol

Dashboard light #3

Answer: Airbag indicator

You never want to put off getting your car looked at if your airbag light is on. If the light is on (in some cars it will be a light with the letters SRS), it means that something in the system is faulty and your airbags may not deploy during an accident. It could indicate that something is wrong with your seatbelts, the airbag, the computer, or the wiring that controls the airbags.

Discover 13 weird car features you didn’t know you had.

4 / 12
engine warning symbol

Dashboard light #4

Answer: Check engine or malfunction indicator light (MIL)

The check engine light is one that gets ignored a lot. Most likely because it can mean that your car just needs a quick fix, or that something is seriously wrong with your engine. It turns on when your car’s diagnosis system detects a problem. You don’t need to pull over and turn off your car the second the light comes on, but if you ignore it, you could end up making the damage much worse, so take your car in to get looked at as soon as possible.

5 / 12
tire pressure symbol

Dashboard light #5

Answer: Tire pressure warning light

The tire pressure warning light indicates that your tire pressure is too low. (Find out how to check tire pressure like the pros.) Having low tire pressure can lead to uneven wear of your tires or tire failure.

Don’t miss this expert advice on how to extend the life of your tires.

6 / 12
washer fluid symbol

Dashboard light #6

Answer: Washer fluid reminder

Luckily, the fix for this dashboard warning light is a do-it-yourself job. The washer fluid reminder light just means that the washer fluid in your car is low and that you need to refill it. Keeping a bottle of all seasons washer fluid in your garage is always a good idea.

Here’s how to check your washer fluid level before it becomes a problem.

7 / 12
engine temperature symbol

Dashboard light #7

Answer: Engine temperature warning light

In many cars, the engine temperature warning light will illuminate blue when the car is first turned on, meaning that the engine hasn’t fully heated up. Then, when the engine has been running for a few minutes, it turns off. It if ever illuminates red, it means that your engine is overheating. When the light comes on, pull over, shut off your engine and wait for it to cool down.

To keep your vehicle in the best shape possible, follow this ultimate car maintenance schedule.

8 / 12
automatic gearbox warning symbol

Dashboard light #8

Answer: Automatic gearbox warning

Also called the automatic transmission light, the automatic gearbox warning light means that there is a possible problem with your automatic transmission. The most common reason this light comes on is that the car’s transmission fluid temperature is higher than normal.

Here are 13 car problems you’ll regret ignoring.

9 / 12
oil pressure symbol

Dashboard light #9

Answer: Oil pressure warning light

The oil pressure warning light means that the oil pressure in your car is low and that you need to get an oil change. If it comes on, stop driving immediately. Having little or no oil in your car can be very damaging to your engine.

Discover the secret to pouring oil without making a mess.

10 / 12
anti lock braking system symbol

Dashboard light #10

Answer: Anti-lock brake warning

Your car’s anti-lock braking system works to ensure your tires maintain contact with the road in wet or slippery conditions or when you stop your car quickly. It keeps your tires from locking up, and reducing the risk of a skid. If the ABS light illuminates while you’re driving it means that the system isn’t working properly and it might not work when you brake.

Brush up on these driving tips to stay safe in wet weather.

11 / 12
charge battery symbol

Dashboard light #11

Answer: Battery charge warning light

A car’s battery runs everything electrical—the engine’s control computer, the radio, the headlights, the ignition system, etc. To keep it running, all cars have a built-in recharging system. If the battery charge warning light comes on it means that the system isn’t working at that your battery is going to die soon.

Here’s what it could mean if your car battery keeps losing its charge.

12 / 12
traction control symbol

Dashboard light #12

Answer: Traction control light

If your car’s traction control light comes on it means that the system is active. You should have it on when driving in slick conditions.

Now that you know what these dashboard lights really mean, find out what these strange car noises are trying to tell you.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest