What To Do When Your Car Light Is On

Your car has a number of warning lights that alert you to maintenance steps or emergency performance issues. If you see a light turn on, it can be difficult to know how to proceed. Use this guide to learn more about your car light system and find out more key maintenance tasks. Find out what size windshield wipers do I need and answers to other common maintenance issues that may cause a warning light.

Diagnosing a Check Engine Light

One of the most common warning lights is your check engine light. This light turns on when a sensor in your vehicle sends an alert. Some alerts caused by easy fixes, like a loose gas cap. Others are far more serious, like a damaged transmission. The first step to understanding your car lights meaning is to see if the light is yellow or red. Most severe issues turn on a red warning light, while yellow or orange lights are typically caused by minor maintenance issues.

Next, check to see if there are any performance issues. If you hear any unusual grinding or squealing sounds, see any dark smoke or feel any steering, braking or accelerating issues, stop your car as soon as it is safe and find out more.

For more information, you need a diagnostic tool. There are helpful online code reading databases available to troubleshoot the issue on the side of the road, but the most accurate readings are from OBD-II scanners. You can pick up a scanner or use it for free at your nearest auto parts store.

A scanner points you to a specific system that is damaged. From there, you can visually inspect it to determine whether you have a damaged component, low fluid level, loose wire or other issue. This can help you feel more confident as you determine whether you need emergency repairs or if you can schedule a repair in a few days. When in doubt, treat a check engine light as an emergency. Low oil, transmission fluid or other maintenance issues can quickly turn into a major repair as parts grind and scrape together.

Checking Fluid Levels

Prevent some emergency repairs by checking your fluid levels. Keeping your oil, transmission fluid and other key fluid levels topped up is a great way to protect your investment. Your vehicle uses six key fluids for safe and efficient driving. Here are the top fluids to check to maintain your car:

  • Coolant
  • Transmission fluid
  • Oil
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Windshield wiper fluid

Consult your owner’s manual to find the dipsticks or reservoirs for each of these fluids. Some fluids, like windshield wiper fluids, can simply be topped up while others, like engine oil, need to be emptied and completely replaced to prevent contamination.

Shop at a trusted auto parts store for more information about common maintenance routines. Look up wiper blades, engine oil and key maintenance parts using your make and model of vehicle. Learn more about your warning lights and pick up auto parts today to enjoy preventative maintenance or DIY auto repairs.

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