Here at Elite Auto Electronics we are able to scan, diagnose and repair your vehicle’s warning light woes. Whether your car’s dashboard is lit up like a Christmas tree, or just one warning light on, it’s important to get it checked out. It could just be something as minor as a faulty sensor, a damaged connector or even a broken wire. It could also be something more serious that, if left unchecked, could cause lasting and expensive damage to your vehicle.
When the ignition is turned on, the warning lights will illuminate briefly to confirm that the systems are operational. They should extinguish as soon as the engine starts. If a warning light illuminates intermittently, or stays on while driving, it indicates a malfunction. Regular servicing and maintenance can help protect your vehicle from firing off a fault. Keeping a close eye on your car and its warning lights could save you money and avoid expensive bills.
Listed below are some of the more common warning lights and their meanings you may find helpful.
SRS/Airbag Warning Light (Supplemental Restraint System)
An air bag is an inflatable cushion designed to protect the occupants from serious injury in the case of a collision. It is designed to supplement the protection offered by seat belts. Seat belts are still needed to hold the occupant securely in place, especially in side impacts, rear impacts and rollovers. Upon detecting a collision, the air bags inflate instantly to cushion the exposed occupant with a large gas-filled pillow.
A typical airbag system consists of an airbag module, (containing an inflator or gas generator and an airbag) crash sensors, a diagnostic monitoring unit, a clock spring, and an indicator lamp. These components are all interconnected by a wiring harness and powered by the vehicle’s battery. If your vehicle has a SRS system, it is required to operate for a WOF.
Airbag systems hold a reserve charge after the ignition has been turned off or after the battery has been disconnected. This back up power supply is necessary to ensure the system operates if the battery or wiring components are damaged during an impact. Since components vital to the system’s operation might sit dormant for years, the airbag circuitry performs an internal “self-test” during each start up, usually indicated by a light on the instrument panel that glows briefly at each start up.
A fault with the SRS system means your airbag won’t deploy in a crash and the seat belts will not tighten, nor will any additional features activate.
ABS Warning Light (Anti-Lock Braking System)
Each wheel has magnetic sending units that tells the computer the speed that each wheel is turning at. When you apply the brakes the computer reads the relationship of speed that each wheel slows down at. If even one wheel is reading a different speed of deceleration than the others, there is a loss of traction or adhesion to the road. When this happens, the ABS unit controls the wheels braking.
However, if the ABS light remains on, it could be any of the wheel speed sensors or worse, a fault with the ABS computer. Any of these conditions will trigger the computer to send a malfunction signal to the dashboard, lighting up the ABS warning light. This indicates the system is not operational.
Normal braking (without anti-lock braking) will generally be maintained and your vehicle will be safe to drive. Keep in mind that with no ABS system, the vehicle can skid out of control in a sudden stop, especially on slick or wet surfaces. If the vehicles ABS system is not operating it will not pass a WOF.
Brake System Warning Light
The brake warning light illumination can be caused by low brake fluid in the system or brake pads wearing thin. The brake fluid level should be checked and topped up. As the brakes wear the fluid level will slowly drop. Check your brake fluid level regularly, if the fluid has to be topped up frequently the system will have a hydraulic leak and will need to be checked.
Also make sure the handbrake lever is fully off as it shares this warning light on some vehicles. At Elite the brake fluid and brake pads are all part of a service check.
Traction Control Warning Light
If the traction control light illuminates and stays on without blinking, this means that the traction control system has been deactivated and there is no traction control available. The traction control system uses a computer to detect whether one, or more, of the wheels has begun to slip and lose traction. Loss of traction commonly occurs in snowy, icy, or wet conditions when a driving wheel loses grip on a surface.
When this lack of traction occurs, the traction control system shifts the power from the wheel that is slipping to the wheels that are still gripping. This transfer of power keeps the vehicle moving safely in the desired direction.
Battery Charge Warning Light
If your battery warning light does not illuminate briefly upon starting your vehicle, or illuminates while driving, your battery is not being charged correctly. This could indicate several possible faults with your charging system. The drive belt may have broken, and on some vehicles this may also drive the water pump for cooling the engine. The vehicle should not be driven until the belt is replaced.
In most cases, this light turns on when your alternator is not doing its job properly. The alternator is there to charge your battery continuously throughout your journey, and supply electricity to all other components. When your battery fails, especially if it’s new, chances are you’ve got a problem with your alternator. Pop into Elite for a free battery and charging system check.
Check Engine Warning Light
All modern vehicles are equipped with an on board computer diagnostic system. It constantly monitors your vehicle’s major operating systems, and importantly the power-train (engine and transmission) system. The main purpose of monitoring these systems is to ensure that your vehicle is operating at the top of its efficiency with the lowest possible emissions.
As fuel economy and emission control has become increasingly important and complex, your vehicle’s electronic systems need to be constantly adjusted. The vehicles control system finely tunes various parameters such as vehicle load, temperature and the air/fuel ratio according to driving conditions.
This system also monitors the operation of the automatic transmission in some makes of vehicles.
When the computer reads that any of these parameters do not fall within the acceptable range for operating the vehicle, the engine light will illuminate, warning you of a potential problem.
Oil Warning Light
Switch off the engine and check the engine oil level. Top up straight away if the level is low. To maintain the minimal required flow of oil, there is an oil pumping system with little passages running throughout the engine. This distributes the correct amount of oil to the right places. Keeping the parts that need to be “hydraulically locked” afloat in oil requires a minimal amount of pressure. If the pressure goes below this threshold, the metal components will start rubbing against each other, which will cause the engine to fail.
In modern vehicles, the oil pressure sensor actually sends an oil pressure value to the powertrain computer. If the oil pressure reading goes below a specified level, the powertrain computer triggers the oil pressure warning light and, in some cases limits the power of the engine in order to protect it mechanically.
Glow Plug Warning Light (Diesel Vehicles)
A glow plug is a heating device used to aid the starting of diesel engines. This system is controlled electronically. If the warning light stays on or flashes after the engine has started, there is a fault in the system. This could lead to starting issues or possibly glow plug failure.
Low Coolant Warning Light
Low coolant does not necessarily translate to a potential overheating issue. However this should be checked as soon as possible for any leaks.
Warnings regarding your cooling system operation can also appear as a temperature warning light, or a temperature gauge that moves into the red zone (which indicates the engine is running hot and requires immediate attention to avoid engine damage).
Stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so. Continuing to drive with an overheated engine can cause serious engine damage.
An overheating engine may be a result of a coolant leak. Have the cooling system inspected for leaks. Common leak points include the radiator, all hoses, and water pump. Internal leaks (such as a crack in the head or engine block) can’t be seen and can only be diagnosed by pressure testing the cooling system.
Note: Always check coolant level when the vehicle is cold. Do not attempt to open the radiator cap when the engine is overheating.
Automatic Transmission Warning Light
Your car’s transmission is a complex mechanical and electronic system that controls the application of power from the engine to the driving wheels. It experiences more wear and tear over time than most other parts of your vehicle, due to the heat and friction produced by their many moving and interacting components.
At Elite we will scan the system to determine if it is an electronic control system fault, or an internal mechanical fault.