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What the Engine Codes on Your Dash Mean

There are a lot of lights on your car’s dashboard. When even one of those lights turns on, it can fill even the most confident driver with dread. One thing to ask yourself is if you understand what those lights mean. They all correlate to different things. Some are crucial to address while others should not give you too much concern.

Check Engine

This is the most common light to light up on dashboards. It indicates that there is an issue with your vehicle’s engine, transmission, or emissions-related components and it could be a result of a number of problems. A professional scan tool will need to be used to ascertain the source of the light and should be addressed as soon as possible. The most common explanations for why this light turns on include:

  • Catalytic converter concern
  • Engine misfire or internal concern
  • Emissions related component failure
  • Gas cap replacement, repair or tightening
  • Transmission control or internal failure
  • Voltage related concerns

Battery Alert

The battery alert means that your car’s charging system has fallen below normal levels. When you take your vehicle to a professional mechanic, there are a few things that are going to be checked. The charging system, battery, and connections will be inspected to determine if and where a problem exists. Most charging systems are now controlled by the vehicle’s computer and do not necessarily always indicate a bad alternator or battery.

Oil Pressure Warning

When your car experiences a sudden loss of oil pressure, this light is going to illuminate. This is one you cannot ignore. You need to check the oil pressure and levels right away to see if more oil needs to be added.

Coolant Temperature Warning

Your vehicle needs coolant to function properly. When something goes wrong, the temperature of that fluid can exceed normal levels, and that requires immediate attention. The items that need to be checked include the radiator cap and the fan operation. A mechanic will also see if there are any leaks inside the system causing coolant to flow out of the system.

Brake System

There are a few reasons why the brake system light turns on. It could mean your parking brake is engaged, which is nothing to worry about. It could also mean your car is running low on brake fluid, which needs to be refilled when you get a chance. Finally, it could mean your vehicle’s anti-lock brake system is experiencing an issue, and this cannot be overlooked. Brakes are an important safety feature in your vehicle. It is imperative it is functioning properly.


This stands for Tire Pressure Monitoring System. When it lights up, it means the pressure in one of your tires is running low or can be an indicator of other tire related issues. You will need to check the tire pressure for all of them to locate the issue. Do this as soon as you can. At times this requires the use of a special diagnostic tool to reset your TPMS light. Please see your local repair shop for assistance in this area.

Washer Fluid Reminder

Your vehicle might have a system in place where you can squirt water onto the windshield to help remove debris and dirt. This light indicates it is time to refill those fluids. It is not too much of a problem as long as your windshield is kept clean otherwise.

Service Vehicle Soon

This light usually indicates that your vehicle is due for a scheduled maintenance service. Most of these services are related to the number of miles on your vehicle and illuminate when the vehicle has reached the set mileage for the particular service. (i.e. oil changes, mileage services, fluid flushes.) Some of these are set by time. Check with your service provider as to what service due when the light comes on. This can help to prevent breakdowns at a later date and help to avoid more expensive repairs in the future.

Even if something is not an immediate concern, it should be addressed quickly. It is better to know exactly what the problem is and get it fixed by a professional in a timely manner, that way you can drive without any worry.