WARNING LIGHTS AND GAUGES
Why is this light on? What does it mean? Is it really that serious or can I drive my vehicle in to the shop? As a general rule of thumb, if the light is red, pull over and shut the vehicle off immediately. If the light is yellow or orange it may be safe to drive the vehicle to the shop.
CHECK ENGINE OR SERVICE ENGINE SOON
Modern vehicles have many systems and electronic components designed for maximum efficiency and strict emissions standards which can fail. This light can come on if any one of those components fail or function erratically. It can also come on for a wide variety of other reasons. It's generally safe to drive the vehicle with this light on although it should be noted that if the light is flashing, the vehicle should be driven as short of a distance as possible. A flashing check engine light usually means that there is a misfire occurring and prolonged driving could damage one or more of your catalytic converters.
If this light comes on it, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and shut the engine off immediately. Allow the engine to cool down for at least 20 minutes before attempting to start it again. If you notice coolant on the ground, you will need to have the vehicle towed in to the shop for repair. Driving with this light on will almost certainly cause severe and expensive engine damage. Something as simple as a ruptured hose which is generally very cheap to fix can cause your vehicle to overheat. Shutting the engine off is the best safeguard against causing any major damage. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES attempt to open the radiator or cooling system when it is hot OR add COLD water to a HOT engine.
ENGINE OIL PRESSURE
In order to run, all engines need oil to lubricate the internal moving parts. When an engine loses oil pressure, lubrication inside the engine stops and can cause CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE IN A MATTER OF SECONDS. The most common cause of low oil pressure is failure to maintain the proper oil level in your engine but there are other reasons this light can come on. If it comes on while you are driving, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and shut the engine off IMMEDIATELY. Check the oil level on the dipstick. If the oil is below the bottom line on the dipstick, do not attempt to restart the engine until sufficient oil has been added. TIP: It takes one quart of oil to raise the level from the minimum to maximum line on your dipstick. Do not add more than the maximum amount of oil to your engine. If there is sufficient oil in the engine and the light remains on, you will need to have your vehicle towed into the shop. If you see this light come on and it is yellow or orange and not red, it likely means you are low on oil but that there is enough oil for temporary continued operation. Check the oil level and add enough oil to reach the top line of the dipstick as soon as possible.
CHARGING SYSTEM MALFUNCTION
This light is the exception the the red/yellow/orange rule above. Even though this light is red, you can still drive your vehicle while it is on for a short distance. Turn off any unnecessary electrical items, like the radio and heater to prolong the remaining charge in the battery. It is possible that the vehicle may stall while you are driving and you won't be able to restart it so be mindful of places to pull over in case the vehicle stalls. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge or light as well. In some instances a broken drive belt can cause this light to illuminate. That same belt may power your water pump and power steering pump. Limp the vehicle to a safe location and call for a tow.
LOW TIRE PRESSURE
This light means that your vehicle has detected low tire pressure in one or more of your tires. Look to see if any of your tires are low. If they appear low, add the necessary amount of air to bring them up the the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. You can find the recommended tire pressures on a sticker which is generally located in the driver's door jamb or behind the fuel filler door. If your tire is very low, or flat, the vehicle should not be driven. Some newer vehicles are equipped with run flat tires. These tires are designed to be driven short distances with little or no air in them. They will not appear low just by looking at them. Just because the tire looks fine does not mean it is fine. If you fill your tire up to the proper level and the light comes on again within a few weeks, you need to visit a tire shop to see if the tire has a leak. Do not reset the tire pressure monitoring system until you have checked the level in all four tires to make sure they are at the proper level.