How well do know your dashboard warning lights?

How well do know your dashboard warning lights?

12 January 2021

As a driver, you’re likely to have come across a number of lights flashing up on your dashboard at some point or another, and whilst most aren’t a cause for concern, others signal that a more serious problem with your vehicle may require attention – and fast!

The events of 2020 have meant the daily commute has disappeared for some completely, at least in the short term. However, this also means that a large number of us are spending less time than usual in our vehicles and are less likely to be exposed to the dashboard lights in the same way we were before.

With this in mind, we were keen to find out just how knowledgeable UK drivers are when it comes to their dashboard warning lights, as well as asking them how long they’d be willing to leave them unchecked.

How much do we know?

Whilst it is completely reasonable not to know every single light on a dashboard, ensuring you have enough knowledge of the basics to help you diagnose a potential problem with your vehicle will prove to be a priceless skill, should an issue arise.

However, our study found that just a fifth (21%) of UK drivers could identify the basic warning lights on their dashboard such as ‘low tyre pressure’ and ‘check oil’. Fifteen per cent of those surveyed believed they could identify all of the basic warning lights unaided if required.

Our research also highlighted that 3% of Brits did not know that their car manual was there to help them to identify any issues with their vehicle.

Testing the nation

Despite the confidence of some, we were keen to put the nation to the test and find out just how much they actually know when it came to their dashboard warning lights – with some rather colourful results.

We used a combination of standard dashboard lights, lights you would only find when driving an electric or hybrid vehicle, and several specially created fake dashboard warning symbols, in order to truly test the nation.

And it seems we really did manage to confuse you, as more than a third of participants (27%) so far believed all 15 dashboard lights to be real, despite a fifth of the images being fake. In fact, at present, the average test score is just eight out of 15, with no one (as yet) scoring full marks!   

How well do know your dashboard warning lights?

Willing to wait

Our study also found that around 654,000 UK drivers could be regularly ignoring the illuminated dashboard lights until their service or MOT came around. In fact, if a dashboard light came on in their car, less than half of Brits (46%) would address the problem immediately.

A further fifth (19%) would look into fixing the problem within two days, no matter what colour the light was - something that could cause costly or irreparable damage to the vehicle depending on what the light was signalling.

But why are we willing to wait?

Well many people (40%) wait because they believe that the dashboard light may go off by itself. While a quarter (24%) admit to just being lazy when it comes to fixing the issues highlighted to them when their dashboard warning lights come on.

One of the more common reasons given for ignoring a light, is that we are afraid of the potential costs that the dashboard warning light may imply (34%), and whilst it’s natural to have concerns around car costs, by ignoring the illuminated symbols on your dashboard, you could actually be landed with a bigger bill in the long run.

Breaking the law

But, as well as the potential additional expense, did you know that by ignoring the problems highlighted by warning lights, you could actually be breaking the law?

One in ten (12%) did not know this and were unaware of the legal obligation to quickly attend to a dashboard warning lights if it is illuminated. A further one in ten (10%) were not aware that ignoring these lights could invalidate their insurance policy.

All drivers have a legal obligation to ensure their car is in a safe, roadworthy condition, and by ignoring what your vehicle is telling you, such as an issue with your brakes or engine, it could become a danger to both you and others on the road.

So, when it comes to your dashboard, what should you know?

Traffic light system

Much like traffic lights, different coloured warning lights that appear on your dashboard can indicate the urgency of the problem, and so it’s essential that you pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you.

  • Red lights on your dashboard signal a warning, and are issues that should be dealt with immediately, or as soon as is safe to do so, such as ensuring your boot is closed, or that your oil requires a change.
  • Amber dashboard warning lights advise you should have the fault diagnosed within a month, but pay close attention to vehicle performance, as if noting any major decline in performance might result in needing to have it diagnosed sooner.
  • Green (white or blue) lights are informational, letting you know details about your car such as your fog lights are on, or that you need to refill your windscreen washer fluid.

Common Dashboard Lights

We won’t go over each and every light you may see on your dashboard, because as 97% of you are already aware, your driver handbook is filled with everything you need to know…

Our Aftersales Operations Manager, Richard Jennings, has highlighted some of the key dashboard warning lights that we believe may be worth brushing up your knowledge on, as well as sharing an insight in to how much it is likely to cost to put the associated issues right.

How well do know your dashboard warning lights?


Whether you drive an electric, hybrid or fuel powered car, getting to know your vehicle and ensuring you stay on top of the easy-to-do maintenance such as checking your tyre tread, tyre pressure and topping up the oil and washer fluid, should be at the top of your to-do list as a car-owner.

Of course, there are other jobs you’re likely to need the help of a qualified mechanic for, and so, as well as paying attention to your dashboard, keeping up with regular services and MOTs will help to identify any potential problems that may arise, before they become a longer term issue you can’t afford to fix.

Did you take our quiz and test your dashboard light knowledge? Let us know how you scored on our quiz via our Twitter or Facebook channels.



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