What happens when a symbol lights up on your dash while you're driving? Automakers have installed over 20 vehicle warning indicators and few people know what every one of them means or what to do in case they light up. Dash warning lights are no longer the simple "dummy" lights of previous generations that notified you of low oil pressure or limited fuel. Now dashboard lights serve two purposes: to inform you about problems and to let you know when it's time for scheduled car maintenance.
That Light is on for a Reason — Including a Car Maintenance Reminder
No one wants to see a small orange light in the shape of an engine pop up next to their speedometer or hear an aggravating beep or chime every time they drive. We expect our car to keep running smoothly and get us where we need to go without problems. Whether the light signifies a mechanical problem or is serving as a reminder of scheduled maintenance, you shouldn't ignore dashboard warning indicators.
Safety First (and Second, and Third ... )
One of the best ways to prevent costly mechanical failures or unnecessary repairs is paying attention to vehicle warning indicators. Beyond repair costs, safety is the most important reason to pay attention to warning lights and respond appropriately. Many warning lights indicate potential safety hazards.
Today's vehicles have safety systems that were unheard of in previous decades, from tire pressure monitoring systems to brake wear and suspension system warning indicators. Tire blowouts or worn tires played a role in about 35 percent of 44,000 vehicle-related crashes in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Brake problems accounted for 22 percent of vehicle-related accidents in NHTSA's report.
You also have a responsibility to other drivers on the road who aren't expecting a vehicle to suddenly start billowing smoke or come to a halt in the middle of a highway due to catastrophic engine failure.
Pay Now and Keep a Good Car Service Record or Pay Even More Later
As many as 1 in 3 drivers will disregard their "check engine" light until their car shows problems. You really aren't saving money by disregarding these lights or postponing maintenance. Maintaining your car with a good service record will not only help keep your vehicle in running order and prevent potential major breakdowns, but it will also increase your car's resale value if you sell it.
A busy schedule or the desire to save money could convince you it's okay to postpone an oil change or other scheduled maintenance. This choice could cost you much more than the savings of a $25 oil change. If your car's oil light comes on, it can mean you have severe low oil pressure and you should immediately stop driving and check your oil. A faulty sensor might trigger this light, but if you've skipped oil changes, a sensor probably isn't the cause. If left unattended, the "worst-case scenario" could mean a new engine at an average cost of $2,250 to $4,500 according to the Car Care Council.
Keeping Your Car's Service Record
In addition to heeding your car's dash light reminders for service and maintenance, keep records of your car's service together in a single place. Many people keep the records in the dash of their car. First, you'll be able to remind yourself that all necessary maintenance and services are up to date. You'll be driving as safely and trouble-free on the road as possible. You'll also have service records if you decide to sell your car.
Cars with good service records have a much higher resale value than ones that have been neglected. Buyers don't want to pay much for a car with many mechanical problems and malfunctioning equipment. When your car has passed its standard manufacturers' warranty, its service and maintenance schedule continues. A quality extended warranty can provide protection for your car as long as you've upheld your part of the warranty contract. And sometimes, even if you've done everything right, you may still need roadside assistance. Protect My Car's extended warranty programs offer 24-7 roadside assistance and towing support.
You'll have more peace of mind while driving if you know what your dashboard maintenance reminder lights mean and take advantage of service reminders. In addition to keeping up your responsibilities as a car owner, an extended car warranty can help save on maintenance and service costs and protect you in case of unexpected repairs.