April 16, 2024

Automotive Breakdown


“What does that little light mean?” or similar questions are fielded each day by repair shops all over the nation. It stems from a combination of two things; some engineer’s idea of a cute pictograph and/or the least read book in the world- the owner’s manual. Last year Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 2000 drivers 18 years old and older asking the drivers to identify ten instrument panel warning lights. Here is a sample of the list with the percentage of incorrect guesses because the driver did not understand what was trying to be conveyed:

Tire Pressure Monitoring (TPM)-49%
Brake System Warning-46%
Cruise Control activated-42%
Fog Lights, or beams-40%
Electrical System problem warning-24%
Engine Temperature warning-17%

Granted, some of the warning lights are creative in concept and equally vague as to the intention, but a familiarization of one’s owner’s manual is necessary- at least the pages about the instrument panel. Michelle Magna, Insurance.com’s Managing Editor commented “One has to question the effectiveness of warning lights, especially in cases where well over a third of driver’s can’t guess what they mean. Despite all the advances in car technology, mysterious warning lights persist. Maybe it’s time to do something revolutionary, like use words instead of icons.”

What, exactly, does a light in the shape of a battery, or (my favorite) a lightning bolt mean? It means the charging system isn’t- charging that is. One that had me stumped was a green tree- or clump of leaves(?). Turns out it meant the hybrid was in electric mode. The TPMS light usually represents a cross section of a tire- but only if one knows what a tire cross section looks like. How about two T’s opposing each other across from a circle? Give up? Why brakes, of course- you have a problem in your braking system.

A Check Engine light turning on will also turn off (meaning the lights turn ON) for VSC (Vehicle Stability Control- or whatever the manufacturer chooses to call their version) and ABS (Antilock Brake System) and other systems causing panic in the typical driver as their instrument panel lights up like a pinball sign.

Equally confusing are sound and navigation systems. Over half of the respondents in a recent survey do not use these sophisticated systems because they don’t understand them or the directions (this writer included). Plus, they become a distraction to those who do use them, causing inattention during driving.

So, take some time, even if you have owned your car for awhile, and read the section on the instrument panel warning lights and what they mean.  Ask, we will be glad to take a few minutes to sit with you and explain the warning lights. And take those photos, affirmation sayings, and black tape off the instrument panel so all the warning lights can be seen before serious damage is done to your engine.

Our shop is one of 55 ASA-AZ shops that are listed as “Green” by Arizona Department of  Environmental Quality. We control our waste stream; we re-claim and re-cycle antifreeze, waste oil, refrigerant, plastics, paper, and most metals. Our floors are not washed into the sewer system, and we control our drain water quality through the use of hydro-carbon socks. We have installed low energy fluorescent lighting and use low energy computer systems. Our outdoor lighting, for night time security, is low density and meets dark sky recommendations. Additionally, we purchase products in bulk (eliminating plastic bottles) wherever practical. Our chemicals are chlorine free. Being green is not always cheap, or easy- but it is the right thing to do, and good for Sedona.


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