June 2024

Dashboard Warning Lights Guide

As a driver, dashboard warning lights are something you need to pay attention to every time you get behind the wheel.

It’s important to check they are behaving as expected every time you turn the ignition on – and also that you keep an eye out while driving for any unexpected lights. We’ve put together this guide with some of the warning lights that are most commonly found across all different cars – and the ones that can be cause for the most concern.

If you see unfamiliar warning lights appear, or if multiple lights show at the same time, that’s a pretty good indicator that something’s not right at all! It could be a minor error through to something majorly wrong with your engine, so it’s best not to take any risks of further damage - pull over when safe to do so (pop your hazards on if needed).  Turn off the engine, and get some professional advice from an MTA member quick smart! You can always use this page to search for repairers in your area, so you can find a reliable expert.

Power Steering Error

This light indicates that something is not quite right with your power steering, but this could be anything from an alert that your hydraulic fuel is low to a warning of a serious power steering failure. It’s definitely one to get checked out as soon as you can.

Windscreen Fluid Warning

If you spot this light it’s time to top up your windscreen wiper fluid. No emergency stop required, though trying to spray your windscreen when the fluid level is low is no good for your pump, so make sure you top it up before your next drive. 

Brake Pads Warning

This light will glow when your brake pads are getting too thin. When it first appears, don’t panic, but consider it your warning to book in for a brake check with an MTA member.

Diesel Pre-Heat Indicator

Diesel drivers only for this one – the rest of you can skip ahead! If you see this light when the engine is cold it shouldn’t be a problem. This is just indicating that the heating is being activated to make the engine run at optimal temperature. But if it starts flashing, best to get it checked out by an MTA member repairer.

Temperature Warning/
Frost Warning Light

When sensors on our car detect the temperature outside has reached possible-frost levels, you may notice this symbol light up. You can keep driving if the conditions allow, but be extra careful! The temperature’s low enough for ice on the road, so slow down and take extra caution.

Ignition Switch Warning/
No-Charge Light

A light found in newer cars. If it illuminates when you turn your car on it may be detecting a problem with your key or the ignition, and may be resolved by getting it cleaned out. Otherwise a switch or the key itself may need replacing. However if it lights up while you are driving, there may be a more serious computer issue that could prevent your car turning on again once you stop and shut the engine off. Either way, it’s best to get this checked by an MTA member as soon as possible to give you the best chance of an easy fix.

Key Battery Low

A more obvious one – this light or message is giving you warning that your key fob battery is getting low. Make sure to replace it promptly, as you don’t want to be caught flat and unable to use your key. Check your car owner manual to learn whether the battery can be replaced yourself.

Distance Warning

This light will simply signal an object has been detected on the road in front of you – slow down, and keep your eyes on the road. If the light stays on when the road is obviously clear, there may be some dirt on the sensor – give the front of your car a clean when you stop and see if the light has turned off. If not, book in to get an MTA member to check this issue.

Press Clutch Pedal (manual)

Just a reminder light to press the clutch before the engine can be started. This light shouldn’t turn on once you’re driving, so get it checked out if that happens.

Press Brake Pedal (automatic)

And for the autos, a simple reminder that you need to step on the brake pedal to move out of ‘Park’. Again, shouldn’t light up on the road so get a check if it does.

Tyre Pressure Warning 

Modern cars may illuminate this light to indicate that one or more of your tyres has low pressure – handy! Make sure to check your tyres are topped up with air to their recommended pressure (you can sometimes find this number on the side of the driver’s door, or in your car’s manual). If the light keeps appearing when you’re confident you have adequate pressure, it could be an issue with the pressure sensors needing replacement or cleaning, or another malfunction – get it checked out.

Exterior Light Fault Warning


A handy light to know – this one will light up in many modern cars when it detects a bulb is not working. Make sure when you stop you grab a friend or use a reflection to figure out which bulb is not working and get it replaced ASAP.

Handbrake On/
Brake Light Warning


Not going anywhere in a hurry? This light appears when your handbrake is still on, so make sure to release that before you drive off! But if this light appears when you’re driving, it’s indicating there is a problem with your car’s brake system. In this instance you need to stop as soon as you can safely do so, and contact an MTA member for advice. Driving with a fault in the braking system could cause major damage, so act quickly on this one!

Catalytic Converter Error


This light usually indicates overheating or another error with the catalytic converter, which means your car may not be correctly monitoring your engine fumes and may be failing to keep your engine running as efficiently as it could be. You should be fine to continue driving, but it’s important to get it checked out by an MTA member promptly, to give yourself the best chance of preventing bigger issues.

Seatbelt Warning


Hopefully an obvious one. This warning will illuminate when a seatbelt is unfastened, so remind all passengers to make it click! If everyone is fastened in and the light is still shining, a seatbelt clip may need a thorough clean in case dust is affecting its sensors – you can try this yourself, using compressed air. Otherwise there may be a larger issue with the sensors or seatbelt system.

Battery Problem Detected


If this one lights up while you’re driving, take action – pull over when safe to do so, and contact an MTA member for advice. There could be many reasons why the battery is not charging correctly, and it’s best to leave your engine turned off until this has been investigated by an expert.

Check Engine Light or the
Malfunction Indicator Lamp

The check engine light could illuminate steadily for a number of reasons – but some can be serious, so it’s important to get your car checked by an MTA member repairer immediately. If your light flashes on and off, you should pull over as soon as you can do so, and call for assistance – don’t risk continuing to drive in that instance.

 Service Needed/Service Now

When this symbol lights up, it’s a reminder to get your car booked in for a service. While you can continue driving – don’t delay getting that service for too long, as maintenance is important for the longevity of your engine and to avoid serious problems.

Airbag Problem Detected/
Airbag Warning


If the airbag warning light stays on or turns on while driving, there may be an issue with the sensors. In the event of a collision, airbags may not deploy correctly (or at all) while this warning light is showing which is very dangerous, so it’s important to get this inspected by an expert as soon as possible.

Air Filter Needs Replacement


The air filter’s doing its job and collecting pollen and debris from the air to prevent it entering the engine. When this warning light turns on the filter’s clogged up and needs inspecting, for either cleaning or a replacement. If the light goes on after a filter refresh, it may be an installation error that an MTA member can check and correct.


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