Warning-light PANIC

When a car warning light comes on, most drivers react in one of two ways:

  1. They panic and pull over, using their cell phone to call a tow truck.
  2. They make a mental note to call the garage and drive around for the next two weeks with the engine light on...if they can keep going that long.

Engine warning lights are installed in the car for a reason. The truth is, there are some warning lights for which you should stop immediately and others for which you can continue driving. If the warning light is related to temperature or oil pressure, it’s essential to stop. When the oil pressure light brightens your dashboard, it’s a signal to let the car coast to a stop. Turn off the car and check the oil. If you have oil with you, you can put some in. Try driving again and watch for the light to go off. If it doesn’t, you need to proceed slowly to a station so they can check the situation.

If it’s the alternator light, you can keep driving, but remember that your battery isn’t charging and that you need to get to a service station pretty quickly to get that fixed. Turn off electrical equipment (leave your lights on at night or in fog), and proceed to the garage. If you stop for milk on the way there, you may not make it because the car might not start again when you return from the store. “Check engine” lights or lights indicating a problem with your brakes should be treated in a similar fashion as alternators. Don’t panic, just proceed to the nearest garage for auto electrical service or engine repair help.