Dashboard Warnings – When to Call an Auto Repair Professional

The warning lights on your dashboard are there for a reason. Yes, occasionally a short occurs that creates a false warning, but you should never assume that an electrical short is to blame.

The Oil Light

Not every car is the same…you oil light may look like an old oil can (or small genie lamp for those who are not automotive-inclined) or it may simply say OIL.  When the oil indicator lights up, you should pay attention.  This light is here to let us know there is an issue within the car’s engine. It means the engine’s oil pressure has dropped for some reason.  When your engine is unable to lubricate itself properly, your car will suffer.  To continue operating a vehicle with inadequate oil pressure or oil supply will result in engine trouble and what can become very costly repairs.

What to Do About the Oil Light

When your oil light has come on, you should take immediate action.  If you are on the road when it happens, pull over to a safe location, wait for the engine to cool enough to raise the hood and reach inside, and check your oil.  If your oil level is low, add oil right away.  This may be the whole problem.  If you add oil and the light does not go off, or if you check the oil and your levels are good but the light is still on, you should take your car or truck to a professional auto repair shop.

The Battery Light

The appearance of the battery light is fairly standard in most vehicles.  It looks like a tiny battery with + and – indicators over the poles.  For those not familiar with this light, it resembles a rectangle with two small raised sections marked with the positive and negative polarity signs.  When this dashboard light appears, you need to get it checked before your problem compounds.

What to Do About the Battery Light

The battery light usually comes on when the alternator is not functioning properly.  The alternator is what provides electricity to your battery, and without it, your car is running completely on battery power.  While there is no exact time you can expect the car to run on the battery alone, I can assure you, it won’t be for long.  To conserve battery power and hopefully get you to a safe place, you should turn off ALL non-essential items, like the radio, AC or heat, items plugged into the lighter, etc.

When you have stopped, you should always start with the simplest fix first.  Check the battery connections.  If they are loose or have extensive corrosion at the terminals, you should clean them and tighten the connections.  Although this isn’t usually the problem, it can be in some cases.  Vibrations due to road conditions and other vehicle components can sometimes cause battery connections to become loose.

If cables are not your problem, your alternator is to blame.  It could be either the alternator belt or the alternator itself.  Without a properly functioning alternator, your car will be no good to you.  Unless this is an auto repair you feel very secure making yourself, it is advised you take your car or truck to a qualified mechanic or auto repair shop.