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Those Signs On The Dashboard

One of the things that you have to learn when you buy a new car is what all the information displayed on the dashboard is what all the warning lights mean. In the cars I remember from my childhood, like the old Mitsubishi Sigma station-wagon my dad let me steer down the driveway, and the Simca that was the first car I owned, there were only a few warning lights: usually the fuel light.

Today’s cars have many more sensors and information systems to let you know just about everything that’s going on with its inner workings. This information is usually presented to you via a little light on your dashboard. But these little lights don’t (or usually don’t) come right out and say something intelligible and straightforward like “Fog lights not working” or “Engine about to explode”. This is because the car was probably designed by Germans, built by Chinese, intended for Brits and sold to Aussies. Just as well, or these information lights might end up with classic examples of Chinglish along the lines of “Lanterns for use when soft cloud sleeping on ground not happy”.

Here, then, is a guide to what they mean…or at least what they look like they mean In the diagrams below, the numbers refer to the columns and the capital letters to the rows

Figure I:

  • 1A: Soprano singing very high note; may shatter the glass of the windscreen.
  • 2A: Beware of signpost shaped like a spanner.
  • 3A: Aliens attempting to beam up sailing ship.
  • 4A: Pigs with turbo-propellers fitted so they can fly. Activate manure-proof umbrella immediately.
  • 1B: Badminton competition ahead.
  • 2B: Asteroid approaching.
  • 3B: (exact meaning of this has been sensored censored, as this post needs to be G-rated).
  • 4B: You have overturned your bowl of noodles.
Figure I

Figure I


Figure II:

  • 1A: Whales visible ahead.
  • 2A: Beware of Lego building blocks on road ahead.
  • 3A: Turn around and go back: you’re heading the wrong way.
  • 4A: North is this way.
  • 5A: This car is Chitty-chitty-bang-bang and is about to take off.
  • 6A: Very large insect on windscreen.
  • 1B: Do you have the balls to drive this car?
  • 2B: Flowers
  • 3B: Please ensure that head is at the top and feet are down the bottom before attempting to drive.
  • 4B: You need to go on a diet.
  • 5B: Daleks ahead.
  • 6B: Fair Isle or Scandinavian knitting not recommended while driving.
  • 1C: Rub steering wheel to make genie appear and turn car into magic carpet.
  • 2C: See Figure I, 4A
  • 3C: See Figure I, 3B
  • 4C: Visit nearest STI clinic immediately
  • 5C: See Figure 1, 2B
  • 6C: You are about to be kidnapped by the Illuminati.
  • 1D: Whales this direction
  • 2D: Exit this way
  • 3D: Dark Lord approaching. Destroy One Ring immediately.
  •  4D: See 1A
  • 5D: Love your six-pack!
  • 6D: Do not attempt to drive this car unless you are psychic


Figure II

Figure II

And if you take this seriously, I suggest that you grab the handbook that was sitting in the glovebox of the car when you bought it and look up what they really mean.

Safe and happy driving,



  1. David George says:

    Its amazing how many people don’t read their owners manual that comes with their car. They get the 45 second rundown from the dealer before they drive out the gates and that’s about it. As a police officer I see these people on a daily basis, and as an example, many don’t even know their cars either have fog lights, that they are on, and where the switch is for them. Having said that, cars are increasingly complex, with more and more gadgets, and the size of the owners manual (or manualS) are increasing commensurably. My CLA45 AMG has 7 individual books on various subjects, each the size of a more traditional owners manual, and I have yet to try the self parking feature or even read up on how to do it. Fortunately though I don’t need help to park just yet, and at least I did thoroughly read those concerned with the cars safe operation and warning systems.

    July 28th, 2015 at 8:48 am

  2. Greg Cooper says:

    I think it is much more appropriate when a symbol lights up to pull the book out and madly search through it whilst driving along the road. Offers a greater challenge but rates as stupid behaviour.

    My latest venture was the diesel particulate warning light that normal comes on for a while and disappears. A different version came on and stayed on. The manual said immediately stop driving and have the part serviced. Being about 100km from nowhere this was a bit hard. Three days later was actually fine.

    July 28th, 2015 at 9:06 am

  3. Kumarrawadu Udayasiri says:

    Yes, now they have not only the warning signs, but also information signs. I think they should differentiate between the two types and have different colours. For example all warning signs should be orange or yellow (as it is) and the information type signs should be green (or another suitable colour. Then the driver can get the warning signs checked by a mechanic ASAP. The green signs tell the driver that, for example, the widescreen wash water reservoir is empty. Then the Driver himself can attend to that at his leisure. This also helps the driver determine if it is OK to continue to drive the car without causing further damage.

    July 28th, 2015 at 9:12 am

  4. Doug Benjafield says:


    Love your raunchy sense of humour!

    You are gifted!

    July 28th, 2015 at 6:17 pm

  5. Connie says:

    Great explanations. Always wondered what these meant!!!

    July 29th, 2015 at 8:02 am