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What Does this Dashboard Light Mean?

General Vehicular, Maintenence & Repair

Many drivers can’t identify the mission-critical dashboard lights in their vehicle

Almost half of drivers would not know what to do if their car’s tire pressure or brake system warning light flashed, and almost 20 percent of people don’t even know what the low-fuel light means, according to an Insurance.com survey.

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 2,000 drivers asking them to identify definitions for 10 common dashboard lights. Icons for partially closed doors, air bag problems and child safety lock activation were correctly identified more often than warning lights for tire pressure, brakes, low fuel and engine overheating.

Many drivers (82 percent) don’t think cars have too many warning lights, but not everyone knows what they mean.

[table caption=”Do you know what these car warning dashboard lights mean?” width=”100%” colwidth=”30|70″ colalign=”center|left”]
Dashboard Light,Percentage of people who could not correctly identify lights
,Tire pressure warning – 49 percent
,Brake system warning – 46 percent
,Cruise control activated – 42 percent
,Fog beams activated – 40 percent
,Electrical problem warning – 24 percent
,Low fuel warning – 17 percent
,Engine temperature warning – 17 percent
,Child safety lock activated – 11 percent
,Front air bag needs service – 10 percent
,Open door warning – 7 percent
[/table]

 

Men vs. women on warning light know-how

Survey results show that, overall, drivers aren’t super confident about their warning light knowledge.  Thirty-seven percent said they feel “very confident” they would know what a dashboard light means without looking it up in a car owner manual. Nearly half (49 percent) said they “might know,” and 12 percent said they “probably wouldn’t know.”

When confidence level results are broken down by gender, men felt more confident than women:

Very confident

Men: 47 percent. Women: 28 percent.

Might know

Men: 28 percent. Women: 56 percent.

Probably wouldn’t know

Men: 9 percent. Women: 15 percent.

Despite confusion over what warning lights mean, the majority of drivers surveyed seem happy with having a lot of lights. Eighty-two percent said they don’t think their car has too many.

Traffic ahead

Insurance.com’s survey also asked respondents about their preferences for warning lights for some theoretical situations. If  they existed, here’s how many people would want the extra light:

  • Traffic congestion ahead; choose alternate route: 24 percent
  • Tire tread below 2/32 depth, legal limit for safe driving: 19 percent
  • Speed trap ahead : 15 percent
  • Mouse or foreign object in engine: 10 percent
  • Time to rest, you’ve been driving too many hours without a break:  8 percent
  • Heavy load — driver and passengers exceed recommended safe car weight limit: 7 percent
  • Noise level alert — noise level in car has exceeded safe level for driving: 6 percent
  • Blood pressure too high for relaxed driving: 5 percent
  • Safe to eat — notifies you that road conditions are safe for eating while driving: 3 percent
  • There’s a McDonald’s within a half mile: 3 percent

Drivers in the survey were very confused about the information you can find in a vehicle identification number (VIN).  A VIN is a string of letters and numbers that contains coded forms of information about your car, right down to when it rolled off the assembly line. You can find out the vehicle’s year, make, model, country of origin, assembly plant and more, but just 18 percent knew the information contained in a VIN.

When asked about PSI, drivers fared better.  Eighty-nine percent knew it stands for pounds per square inch, a measurement used for tire pressure, and that the recommended pressure is stamped on tire walls.

Ever wonder what that D2 shift option is really for? Seventy-one percent of respondents knew that it is used to manually decelerate; for instance, when climbing or descending steep hills. Women outscored men on the typical best use of D2 — 75 percent of females correctly answered compared to 66 percent of males. Eight percent of men said you use D2 for parking lot driving; 4 percent of women thought so.

Be safe, pay less in car insurance

Knowing the warning signs for when your vehicle needs servicing is important for safe driving. Maintenance issues can lead to accidents, which in turn can bring higher car insurance rates.

Methodology

Insurance.com surveyed 2,000 licensed drivers age 18 and older. Respondents were split evenly between males and females and distributed across age groups according to Census data on age distribution. The online-panel survey was fielded in October 2013.

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