Although it might be tempting to view the warning lights on your Chevy’s dashboard as nothing more than little, illuminated friends glowing for your entertainment, they actually have some particular meanings that you should know. In general, any lights that come on are trying to tell you something, but it’s up to you to notice them, understand what they mean, and act accordingly. If you see your Chevy check engine light come on, that can be the biggest warning that something is seriously wrong.
I’m going to go over some of the most common warning lights you’ll see on your Chevy dashboard, what they usually mean, and what you should do about them. Ultimately, if you’re uncomfortable with doing some minor work yourself, you can always take your vehicle to a professional mechanic or your dealership’s service center. Some of these can be handled yourself, however, with minimal training or experience.
Let’s Get to It!
This light, which looks like a circle with parenthesis on either side, and usually has “ABS” or “!” in the center, tells you that something is wrong with your vehicle’s Anti-lock Brake System. If you only see a “!” then it could be a problem with your ABS, parking brake, or emergency brakes. “ABS” inside the circle indicates it is specifically an anti-lock brake issue. Either way, your brakes are vitally important, so drive slowly and get to a mechanic as soon as possible.
You might initially mistake this light for a warning about blowing large bubbles in the car (it pretty much looks like someone blowing a huge gum bubble), but it is a warning about your car’s airbag system. It could mean there is an issue with a sensor or other aspect of your airbags. If you see this, then you need to have a professional make sure your airbag system is working properly and don’t wait.
This light typically looks like a battery, often with a plus and minus symbol, just to make sure you know what it is. If you see this come on, it means there is a problem with your battery or your car’s charging system in general. You might need to replace the battery, clean off your terminals, or replace some other component that is directly connected to this system.
Check Engine Light
Although the term “check engine light” is often used to refer to warning lights in general, this is the real Chevy check engine light and the one you should be most concerned with. It will normally come on for a few seconds when you start your car, that’s fine. If it comes on while driving or stays on when you start your car, then you have a problem. If it is flashing instead of just being steadily lit, then you have a serious problem and need to get your vehicle looked at as immediately as possible.
This symbol looks like a thermometer with waves near it and means that the temperature of your vehicle is not right. You should check your radiator cap, add more coolant if needed, or have your fans checked. If you repeatedly find yourself low on coolant, then you may have a leak you need to have fixed.
Gas Cap Indicator
This light, if you have it, means the gas cap is not tightened correctly. It can result in the check engine light coming on as well, since losing gas through vapor release will often trigger your Chevy check engine light. Make sure your gas cap is on correctly, and if this light comes on again, you might need to replace your cap.
This symbol looks like the sun and is there to let you know that one of your vehicle’s lamps has burned out or is otherwise not functioning properly. When you can come to a safe stop in a parking lot or in your driveway, take a look around your vehicle to find which light is out, then have it replaced as soon as possible. Not only is it unsafe to drive at night with a lamp out, but law enforcement will give you a ticket for it.
Oil Change Reminder
This is not a major warning, but instead a friendly reminder that you’re due to have your oil changed. It typically says “Check Oil” or something similar and indicates you’ve nearly gone the recommended number of miles since your last oil change.
Oil Pressure Warning
This Chevy warning light looks like a little oil can and indicates that your oil pressure is off. Anything causing you to be low on oil or have improper oil pressure is a bad thing and can potentially cause serious damage to your vehicle’s engine. If this comes on and stays lit, have your engine and oil checked as soon as possible to avoid more expensive issues.
Reduced Power Warning
This might have a light that looks like a box with a downward arrow in it, though many modern Chevy vehicles will display a message that says, “ENGINE POWER IS REDUCED.” There are a number of issues that can cause this Chevy check engine light to come on, and most of them involve your battery, your engine, or even your engine computer. In general, if this comes on, then get your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as possible.
Tire Pressure Warning
This is a feature that most Chevy vehicles have these days and warns you when your pressure in one or more tires is low. It looks a bit like a tire with a flattened bottom and a “!” in the center. If you see this, find a gas station or service center where you can check your tire pressure – or take your vehicle to a mechanic to do it for you. If you have recently filled your tires, or this light comes on again after filling the low one, then you could have a leak and need a new tire.
Traction Control Alert
If you see a light that looks like a little car with wavy lines behind it, then that is a warning coming from your Chevy’s traction control system that means road conditions are slippery. This usually means you need to slow down and drive more carefully to ensure you can stay in control of your vehicle. If you see a circular arrow, with a triangle in the middle of it and a “!” in that triangle, then that means your traction control system has an error. Be sure to have it checked out and drive carefully until you can.
Transmission Temperature Warning
If you see a thermometer like the Coolant Warning, but it is in the middle of a circle that looks like a gear, then that is your transmission temperature warning. This means there is an issue with the temperature in your Chevy’s transmission system. Stop driving as soon as you can and get your vehicle to your favorite mechanic to make sure your transmission isn’t damaged by overheating.
Diagnosing a Problem
You can buy an inexpensive OBD-II Scanner and connect it to your Chevy’s computer, usually accessible from below the driver’s side dashboard, to see what the issue is that has caused your Chevy check engine light to illuminate. This will give you a code that corresponds to a particular problem, which you can then repair yourself or take to a professional to have handled. Of course, if you don’t want to invest in a scanner, then you can rely on a mechanic or technician to help you if you see your Chevy check engine light come on.