Every day you drive, you're sitting behind the dashboard. But how in the world did it get that name? Back in the days of the horse-drawn carriage, horses would kick up dirt and mud on the driver and passengers, "dashing" debris against the carriage. So those who built carriages began installing a board to protect them. So, dash-board. Dashboard.
The dashboard is still there, though changed quite a bit from the early days. Now its main purpose is to house the controls and instruments for your vehicle's systems.
Of course, you have the speedometer, tachometer and gas gauge. But there are four warning lights you need to pay attention to on your dashboard and instrument panel. Some of these may even be gauges, depending on your model of vehicle. Regardless, paying attention to them is a good idea if you want your vehicle to keep going as long as possible.
Oil pressure—The oil pressure light will come on if your engine doesn't have enough pressure in its system. Low oil pressure means engine parts aren't getting lubricated properly. This can cause really serious damage and do it quickly. If your oil light goes on, call your PDR service advisor immediately if you can. Even driving a short distance may ruin your engine.
Check Engine light—If a light that looks like an engine comes on, it's not necessarily signaling a catastrophe. But it means one or more sensors in your vehicle have detected an abnormal situation. Have your vehicle checked soon. There will be a code stored in your vehicle that a technician can read and use it as an extra clue as to what's going on.
Brake light—If this lights up, first check if your parking brake is on. If it isn't, you could have serious brake issues. It's a sign you should get the brakes checked soon at PDR.
Tire pressure—Tire pressure monitors are built in to newer vehicles. They let you know if any of your tires are over or underinflated. Both conditions need to be checked out. That could prevent a blowout or premature tire wear.
The dashboard isn't what it used to be. In fact, it's much better now… and much more informative. Take advantage of that information and keep your vehicle running the way it's meant to.
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