You’re on a pleasant morning drive to work complete with brake lights and honking and then to make matters worse…a light comes on your dashboard. It looks like a music note in the ocean. What on earth does that mean? Some dashboard symbols are fairly self explanatory, but some are puzzling. Plus, what does the Check Engine light even mean? Here’s a short guide to give you a better idea of what everything means and what you need to do when they come on. If you’re in need of auto repairs, our Hoover Automotive garage in Hoover, AL will offer free diagnostics.



This symbol has the letters ABS surrounded by a circle. It has nothing to do with washboard abs and everything to do with your Anti Lock Braking System. This does NOT mean that your brakes are malfunctioning, so there’s no need to panic and pull over. Rather, it means that your brakes could possibly lock up if you have to suddenly slam on your brakes. This isn’t a guarantee, but the light does indicate that something could be going on with the Anti Lock Braking System, so it does need to be checked out at Hoover Auto as soon as you can. 


Coolant Level Warning Light

This is the “music note in the ocean” light (the music note is a thermometer) and it means that your coolant levels are low and your vehicle is overheating. This needs to be acknowledged as soon as possible, because an overheated car can break down whenever and wherever it wants. Pull over and let your car cool down on its own. If your engine is smoking, please go ahead and call for roadside assistance. If it’s not smoking and you feel comfortable looking at the engine, carefully lift the hood (not with your bare hands as it may be hot) and check the coolant level. Once the engine has cooled down, carefully drive to Hoover Automotive if you’re closeby or another auto repair shop you’re closer to. 



We’ve heard this symbol referred to as a “math lego” and now we can’t unsee it. It doesn’t actually mean that your battery is dead, but that your vehicle is only being powered by the battery instead of the alternator charging the battery. If your engine is on when this light comes on, something is going on with your battery charging system. If it’s on when your vehicle is cranked, then you’re draining the battery and may need to be jumped off if you sit there like that for a long period of time. 


Brake System Warning Light

This is indicated by an encircled exclamation point. It means something is wrong with your braking system, whether with the components or the hydraulic fluid. It’s a much, much more serious warning than the ABS light. You’ll need to pull over as soon as safely possible and call a tow truck. Driving without a fully functioning braking system is dangerous (obviously). Don’t try to drive your car to us. It needs immediate, roadside attention.


Engine Oil Light

What are your three wishes? This warning light looks like a genie lamp…or a gravy boat if you’re hungry! It indicates a problem with your engine’s oil pressure. Oil lubricates your engine so that it functions smoothly and properly. Without it, your engine will eventually fail. Make sure to bring your vehicle to us as soon as you can. 


Low Tire Pressure

This symbol usually resembles a flattened tire with an exclamation mark in the middle. It means you have low tire pressure in at least one tire. Find a safe place to pull over and make sure you don’t have a flat tire. If you don’t have a dangerously flat tire, try to get to your destination or a gas station to check your tire pressure. If it’s definitely a flat tire, it’ll need to be changed either by you or some kind of roadside assistance.

For low tire pressure- Some vehicles have a small outline of your car on the dashboard and the low tire will be illuminated, which is super helpful. If you don’t have that feature, you’ll need to find a safe place to pull over and check each individual tire until you find the culprit(s). Then put air into the tire(s) to the correct psi for your vehicle. If the light comes back on in the next couple of days, you should probably check for anything stuck in your tire that could be causing a slow leak.


Check Engine Light

Last but not least, the ever vague check engine light. It may illuminate as an engine shape with the words “check” or even the full “check engine”. This may come on for various reasons, one of them not being to open your hood and just stare at the engine. It can alert you to anything from a spark plug fault to low compression. If this light comes on, get your vehicle to us when you can. Don’t put it off for long though!

When your vehicle is trying to tell you that something abnormal is going on, it’s best to get it to your trusted mechanics at Hoover Automotive as soon as possible. We can handle your auto repairs at our garage in Hoover, AL. Contact us if you have any car issues!

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