Carpenters Garage Tooting logo Dashboard warning lights

A fuller description of the warning lamps that may become illuminated on the dashboard can be found in the instruction manual for your car. Below is a quick guide to some of the most popular lamps and their meaning. This is a rough guide for information purposes only.

Carpenters Garage is a family run garage in Tooting, London.

Fault lamps

Instrument cluster (dashboard) warning lamps

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020 8672 6213

A car's gear lever icon

BAS ASR, acceleration skid control, also known as:

•  TCS (Traction Control System)

•  See also ESP (some units combine both functions in one unit. Volvo use a combined unit called DSTC Dynamic Stability and Traction Control).

Engine Management Lamp:

•  Emission Limit Lamp

•  Engine Management System (EPC)

•  Engine Electronics

•  Exhaust Emission Lamp

•  Engine Control System Failure

•  Engine Warning Light

•  Check Engine Warning Lamp

•  Malfunction Indicator Lamp

Airbag system

Also known as: Safety Restraint System (SRS)


This indicates a fault or malfunction with the airbag/SRS system. Whilst this lamp is illuminated, the safety systems such as seatbelt pre-tensioners and airbags may either not deploy at all or, fully deploy in an accident. This could lead to personal injury. On some vehicles however the lamp will stay on, or flash on for a while, to indicate that the front passenger airbag has been disabled or switched off (for safety reasons when a baby carrier is in use).

This indicates that the engine management PCM, (Power Control Module also known as an ECU, Electronic Control Unit) has detected that one of its many sensors has either failed, or is giving a signal that is out of a predetermined range. Whilst this lamp is on, there may be a loss in power and the vehicle will not perform as well as before. This may be very noticeable if the lamp is flashing. (The PCM may default to limp home mode). As a guide, if there is no loss of power, reduce speed and have us examine the system as soon as possible. If there is a lack of power, then it is recommended that the vehicle is not driven as damage may occur to engine emission components.

Battery lamp

Brake fluid/handbrake

Also known as battery charge current or ignition warning lamp. This is a warning that the battery is not being recharged. It does not mean that the battery needs to be replaced, but it will run flat. If the light illuminates then the drive belt condition must be checked. If it is damaged, the vehicle should not be driven. Providing that the belt is good then to prolong the charge remaining in the battery, reduce as much electrical load as is practicable. The charging circuit must then be checked as soon as possible.

Low brake pads; this indicates a malfunction/wiring damage to the brake pad warning lamp wires or the brake pads require replacing.

BAS ESP, also known as:

•  Electronic Stabilisation Programme

•  Electronic Stability Programme

•  Automatic Stability Control (ASC)

•  Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)

•  See also ASR (some units combine both functions in one unit)

This indicates a fault or malfunction with the ESP system. Whilst this lamp is illuminated the vehicle may lose control during fast bends or rapid changes of direction. (There may also be an exclamation lamp on at the same time).

ABS - Anti-lock Braking System, also known as: Anti-locking system

This indicates a fault or malfunction with the ABS system. Whilst this lamp is illuminated the brakes are likely to lock during emergency braking situations. (A fault with the ABS can cause other warning lamps to come on and possibly the Speedo to stop working).

This indicates a fault or malfunction with the ASR/TCS system. Whilst this lamp is illuminated the wheels are likely to spin during rapid acceleration or, when on a slippery road surface. There may also be an exclamation lamp on at the same time. It will also illuminate if the system is manually switched off.

This lamp can be used for one or both of the following:

•  Brake fluid level is low

•  Handbrake is on/not fully released

•  Check the brake fluid level before proceeding and top up if required with the correct grade fluid (filling with the wrong fluid can cause damage to the braking system).