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Man driving with his dashboard lights on at night. What do they all mean?

Your car is talking to you. Are you listening?

Your fellow drivers may not be. According to a survey of 2,000 drivers, 49 percent of respondents could not determine the meaning of the tire pressure warning light. Almost as many — 46 percent — failed to identify what the brake system warning light meant.

To help make sure you know how to make sense of your car’s many signals, here are six important dashboard lights you don’t want to ignore. If you see them, schedule some inspection time with your mechanic. They could be pointing to car trouble in your future!

1.Brake Light

Brakes: without them, driving would be pretty scary! Depending on your car’s make and model, your car may have three lights to alert you to serious braking issues, writes Angie’s List. These various lights can indicate problems with the brakes, anti-lock braking system, and/or parking brake. Worn brake pads, low brake fluid, and a faulty speed sensor are among the top troubles that can trigger these lights. Take your car to a qualified mechanic for a thorough brake inspection. Brake problems are something you want to get fixed—fast!

2.Battery Light

Dead batteries are frustrating. After all, you can’t use a laptop or smartphone without one. But it’s rarely cause for serious concern. Getting stranded in traffic during rush hour because your car battery died? That’s cause for concern. Not only will you be late for whatever the day has in store for you, but getting stalled on the side of a busy road or in a hot parking lot can be unsafe! An illuminated battery light means that your battery isn’t charging properly and may not have much life left in it. Have your battery tested and repaired, or replaced, when this light pops on to help avoid the pain of a lifeless battery.

3.Check Engine Light

Because it can indicate many different issues, the check engine light might be the most mysterious dashboard light of all. It could point to problems with the gas cap, the catalytic converter, the spark plugs … the list goes on. Even so, every item on the list calls for one solution: take your car in for inspection! Why? Because there’s an equally long list of things that can be impacted by “check engine” issues, including gas mileage, safety, and repair costs.

Hold up! Did you know? You can have your car’s codes read for free at many repair shops and auto stores. If your dashboard lights have you stumped, call your local AutoZone, Pep Boys, or Advance Auto Parts and ask about free code retrieval.

4.Coolant Temperature Light

A “coolant temp” light is as clear a sign as any that you should pull over to a safe area and turn off the engine. Things are getting too hot under the hood! Continuing to run an overheated car could lead to serious engine damage and a hefty repair bill down the road. If you have Roadside Assistance, this might be a good time to use it. Whatever you do, the folks at VW advise not to mess with the coolant reservoir or radiator caps, not to touch the radiator fan blades, and not to add cold water or coolant while the engine is toasty. All the above could cause harm to you or the engine. Wait for things to cool down, call for help, and visit a mechanic you trust.

5.Oil Pressure Light

“Oil is the lifeblood of any engine,” says Popular Mechanics. As such, it’s important to respond to an oil pressure light with some pep in your step. This light is one of your best defenses against a problem — such as an oil leak, faulty pump or delayed maintenance — that could seriously hurt your engine. If not taken care of early enough, essential engine parts could weaken and your engine could seize up. The best way to prevent this light from popping on in the first place is to stay on top of your regularly scheduled oil changes. You’ll be able to catch and address any oil issues early on…before your engine loses too much of its “lifeblood!”

6.Tire Pressure Light

Low tire pressure can reduce gas mileage, increase stopping time, and even make for a less comfortable ride. It can also lead to something far worse: a blown-out tire. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire failures are responsible for thousands of accidents each year, including some that are fatal. Fortunately, the number of accidents decreased since new vehicles started incorporating a tire-pressure monitoring system. It doesn’t work if you ignore it, though. When you see your tire pressure light flash on, find free air near you to fill up those tires, or visit one of the many shops that offer free tire pressure checks like Goodyear, Big O Tires, and NTB.

Even if you address every dashboard light, every time, life is full of those not so pleasant surprises. When those surprises happen on the road, you don’t have to face them alone. Mechanical help, 24-hour emergency towing, essential fluid delivery, jump starts, and more — when you need unexpected help on the road, Direct Auto & Life Insurance’s Roadside Assistance plan can be there for you. Now that’s a pleasant surprise! Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT to see how affordable peace of mind can be!

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