There are so many dashboard lights that it really can get confusing.  What does that light even stand for? Do I need to head to the auto repair shop? Is this something major? What do they all mean? Let the Columbia SC Auto Repair Pro help you understand the meanings behind all those dashboard alerts.

TEMPERATURE ALERT LIGHT

The “TEMP” light or picture of something that resembles a thermometer is a serious alert.  It indicates that your motor is getting too hot, and you should pull over as quickly as possible.  If you do not, it will cause further problems that can end up with you having some expensive auto repairs that could have been prevented. Let the engine cool for at least a half hour before checking your water or coolant levels.  You should NEVER open your radiator cap unless the motor has cooled long enough.  Doing so could cause steam or even hot water to spew from the car causing severe injuries.

Driving a vehicle that is overheating can cause the cylinder head to crack, your head gasket to fail, and many other very serious problems. An engine can overheat due to low coolant levels caused by lack of regularly checking your water levels, leaks from the radiator, or leaking elsewhere within the engine or the cooling system’s hoses. Other reasons you may overheat include a faulty cooling fan, bad water pump, malfunctioning thermostat, radiator or cooling system blockages, or even just an engine working too hard in excessively hot weather.

If you are overheating because of coolant leakage, you might be able to temporarily seal the leak or at least slow it down until you can get to an auto repair shop. There are multiple coolant system sealers available on the market that can be added to the radiator, although none of them will work properly if your leaks are too extensive.  They are not a true fix for your problem, but may be able to help you buy a little time.

ALT or CHARGING SYSTEM ALERT LIGHTS

The warning light for your charging system may display as “GEN”, “ALT”, or have a graphic that looks like a battery. This indicates that you car is operating off your battery power only and that your available drive time is quite limited, usually less than half an hour, depending on circumstances. To extend you maximum drive time left, it is advised that you turn off every accessory possible to conserve battery power.

This dashboard warning light can be an alert to anything from a bad alternator to having loose battery cables. It could also be a bad voltage regulator (if not part of your alternator), a drive belt that has broken or is slipping, or bad or corroded battery cables or connections.

SERVICE REMINDER ALERT

Many of the newer model vehicles include a service reminder alert. This means you are in need of an oil change. It comes on when your engine computer has estimated that your oil should be changed. The computer’s calculations are derived from the total hours your engine has been in operation, your automobile’s speed, and temperatures among other operating conditions. While this alert doesn’t require you to get to a shop immediately, it does give you the heads up that you do need to schedule an oil change soon. Depending on your driving habits and the roads you usually drive, the recommended mileage for oil changes can vary from every 3000 miles to nearly 7500 miles.  You should consult your owner’s manual for specifics on your auto’s recommended service intervals. Some models allow the owner to use a reset button to turn off the alert light, resetting your interval time. If you do not have this reset button, you will need to have a professional auto repair shop with a scan tool to reset the service reminder light for you.