Cars in 2021 come with all sorts of digital nannies, many with a dashboard display that looks like an iPad, telling you if a tire is getting low, if another car is too close, or if it’s almost time for an oil change.
It’s easy to ignore all the alerts and reminders on that screen.
But there are three warning lights that require immediate attention, and if you ignore them you could be stranded.
Let's say you're driving along, and all of a sudden a bell chimes. You look down and see a warning light on the dashboard lit up in red or orange.
What should you do? AAA says there are three lights you should never ignore, because they can leave you stranded on the highway with a blown engine.
Warning lights to pay attention to
1. The red thermometer. A thermometer means your motor is overheating, usually because it is low on coolant. This can mean a radiator leak, burst hose, or several other things. Keep driving, and you may blow an engine gasket.
2. The red oil can: This means your oil is dangerously low. It doesn't mean it's simply time for an oil change.
In both cases, pull off the road as soon as it's safe: Do not keep driving, as your engine could seize up in a few if you don't shut it off soon.
If everything looks OK, and you are sure you still have coolant in the engine, then drive to a gas station or auto parts store to replenish, and figure out what is wrong.
3. The red battery: This means your alternator is no longer charging the battery. The car will still run ... but not for long. This is a case where you want to get to a garage or auto parts store ASAP, though you do not have to pull over immediately, as you do if the red oil light comes on.
Confusing Check Engine Light
But from the doesn't that stink file, lights that just confuse you, like the infamous check engine light.
It can mean your emissions system has a problem, your gas cap is open, your catalytic converter is failing, a vacuum hose is leaking, or the car woke up on the wrong side of the bed and is having a bad hair day.
If it leads you to panic, you'll say "doesn't that stink?"
With the check engine light, however, don't worry.
You can keep driving. Just have a shop check your engine soon. Some people have driven for months with the check engine light on.
The bottom line: Make sure everyone in your family knows which warning lights are just a reminder, and which could destroy your engine in a few minutes (red oil light being the most dangerous), so you don't waste your money.
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