Vehicle warning lights – an overview
You’ve packed your car and filled up the tank. You’re ready to go. Or not? There’s no good timing for dashboard warning lights. Find out here how make sure they don’t bother you on your holiday.
Pay attention to warning lights
Sure, there are numerous different warning lights. New cars come with new functionality and also new warning lights. From my experience, the most common ones are the following six. If you think there’s an important one missing, please let me know by writing a comment below this article. Before we start: If a red warning light appears, turn the motor off immediately. For any colour warning light, taking a look in the manual will help you find out what the problem is.
1. Engine oil
In case of loss of oil pressure, stop, check the oil level and pressure and refill oil if needed. If the light stays lit, contact a garage. Too low oil level can cause major and expensive damage to your car. It’s important to check the oil level regularly, especially if you’re planning long trips in the summer.
Functions of engine oil
- lubrication and protection against wear
- cooling agent and heat distribution
- sealing and cleaning
- corrosion inhibition
Differences in engine oil
The origin of all lubricants is base oils. This is made into mineral oil, semi-synthetic oil or synthetic oil. Engine oil comes in two types: Two-stroke oil is often used for mopeds and gardening tools while 4-stroke oil is used in the automotive and motorcycle industry.
Engine oil consumption and quality
Old engines consume more oil than new, fuel-saving engines. New cars have an engine oil consumption of about half a litre per 1,000 km. Your vehicle’s manual will tell you which type of oil you need. Watch out for the following specifications:
The European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) defines quality classifications for 4-stroke engine oils according to the requirements of the European Union.
Every ACEA specification is made of a letter or letters that indicate the class (A, B, C or D) and a number that defines the category.
As an example: A3/B4 defines higher requirements than A1/B1.
The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) classifies the engine oil viscosity. The number that proceeds the letter «W» describes the rheological properties of the oil at cold temperatures. The smaller the number, the lower the viscosity grade. When starting the engine from cold and at temperatures below zero, 5W oil is thinner and provides better protection than 20W oil. The number that proceeds the letter «W» describes the rheological properties of the oil at high temperature. The higher the number, the thicker the oil grade and the more protection it offered.
Tip: Video manual: How to check fluid levels in your car
«SAE5W40» and «SAE10W40» are suitable for our mild Swiss climate.
Power 1 Racing (1l, SAE 10W/40)
Select SP-X (1l, SAE 5W/30)
See all engine oils.
2. Screen washer fluid
Modern cars indicate when the washer fluid level is low. With older cars, such as mine, you’ll know that it’s empty when it doesn’t work anymore. There’s summer screen washer fluid, winter screen washer fluid and all-year screen washer fluid.
See all window cleaners.
3. Engine control system
This warning can appear for several reasons: an issue with the exhaust system, a problem with the engine control system or increased emission levels. Making an appointment at your garage to find the problem is recommended.
4. Coolant temperature
This warning indicates that the temperature has exceeded normal limits and your engine could be overheating. Attention! To avoid engine failure, stop immediately, turn the engine off and let it cool down. It’s important to check the coolant level regularly and consult your manual to make sure you’re using the right coolant for your car.
See all antifreeze agents.
5. Battery and power supply
Problems with power supply can appear for a number of reasons: a faulty generator, an interruption in an electrical connection, an issue with the alternator or even an issue with the fan belt. If you’ve forgotten to turn off the lights or the radio, an «All in One Jump» starter is what you need.
All in One Jump Starter
Connect and go! Now available at a great promotional price.
See all jump starters.
This is a classic and it’s happened to me before: You drive out of the parking space and wonder why your car’s going so slow. Oops, you haven’t released the handbreak. If the warning light is still on once you’ve released the handbreak, the break fluid level might be too low or the breakpads worn out.
These tips apply to general vehicle warning lights. If there’s a problem with your car, make sure to have it checked by a specialist.
This might also interest you (in German):
Mit dem Auto in die Ferien: Hast du an alles gedacht?
Autoreinigung: Blitzblank in den Sommer
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