What Do Vehicle Dashboard Warning Lights and Indicators Mean?

Fire up the engine and your dashboard lights-up like a Christmas tree. So many lights and colors… but what do they all mean? It can be confusing and concerning, especially when one of those warning lights comes on while you’re driving.
Let’s look at your Ford’s vehicle waning lights and indicators to decipher what they mean and which ones need your immediate attention.

What Your Car Dashboard Warning Lights Mean

Across Ford vehicles, car dashboard warning lights and indicators are consistent – from one to the next, the shape and color will be the same. A rule of thumb is to address warnings based on their color.
White, green, or blue indicators are simply information for you, and there’s no need to worry.
A yellow or amber-colored light tells you there’s something that requires attention, but it’s not an immediate concern.
A red light, though, lets you know something is amiss and needs your immediate attention. You should seek out your Ford service center now.

ABS Light

The Anti-Lock Braking System warning light is an amber-colored indicator with a circle, ABS in the middle, and parentheses around it. When it’s on as you drive, it indicates that ABS brakes will not function properly, however normal brakes still operate as designed.

Brake Light

A round warning lamp with an exclamation (!) in the middle and parentheses around it is the brake light. It can indicate the parking brake engaged or an issue with the braking system. It’s red, so get it checked out immediately.

Electric Parking Brake
The warning for an electric parking brake is the same as a brake warning, except there’s a lightning bolt instead of an exclamation. It’s also red. Check if the parking brake is engaged. Otherwise, get into your Ford service center.

Cruise Control
When the cruise control system is turned on, a white light that looks like your speedometer illuminates. When you set the cruise control, it turns green.

Adaptive Cruise Control
Just like regular cruise control, the indicator is white when the system is enabled, and turns green when engaged. The light has a slightly different shape – there’s a car silhouette behind the speedometer shape.

Auto Start-Stop
An ‘A’ with an arrow around it, the Auto Start-Stop light is green and comes on when the engine is shutting down normally.

Battery Light
A red rectangle with a + and – in it, the battery light indicates either a starting or charging system issue. Since it’s red, take it seriously and get into your Ford dealer for maintenance or repairs.

Coolant Temperature
Another red light, the coolant temperature warning is shaped like a thermometer. To avoid overheating, shut down the engine when you see this light come on.

Engine Oil Warning Light
A little red oil can is the warning light for low engine oil or low oil pressure. If the engine is running, this can be a serious issue.

Airbag Light
If you see the red image of a buckled-up person with a ball in front of them, one or more airbags has been disabled due to a malfunction.

Low Fuel Level Warning Indicator
Running out of fuel is no fun at all. Look for the yellow image of a gas pump to know when it’s time to fuel up.

Low Tire Pressure Warning
Shaped like a cross-section of a tire with an exclamation in the middle, the amber TPMS warning light has two functions. If it’s on steady, there’s one or more tires with low pressure. If it’s flashing, there’s a sensor or system malfunction.

Powertrain Fault
Is a red wrench lit up on the dash? It’s telling you of a powertrain fault for the AWD system, engine, or transmission. Get your car care appointment booked now!

Service Engine Soon
Emissions faults, communications issues, and many other problems can cause the yellow SERVICE ENGINE SOON light to illuminate. At your earliest convenience, get it diagnosed and repaired.
If you need help decoding one of your vehicle warning lights and indicators, or if you need to book a service appointment to get it checked, your Southern California Ford Dealers can help. As well, check online for Ford service coupons to help keep your cost of ownership low.