Stay safe on icy roads: 6 warning lights UK drivers should never ignore

Part of car interior with instrument panel containing two speedometers determining mileage distance and other indications

During icy conditions, drivers in the UK are advised to always pay attention to these six warning lights on their cars.

Wintertime brings with it challenging driving conditions, such as ice roads and decreased visibility.

Many drivers will be frightened to take even short trips when there is snow and a strong wind.

The driving experts at Moneybarn have created a guide on the six warning signals you should never ignore in ice conditions to help drivers be as prepared as possible.

1. ABS/ brake fluid warnings

ABS light. Car dashboard in closeup

The presence of brake fluid warning lights or the anti-lock brake system (ABS) indicates a problem with your brake pads or sensors, which may lead to the failure of your car’s brakes. Don’t play around when it comes to a possible problem with the brakes because they are essential to the safety of your car.

Top tip: Maintaining adequate tyre pressure is essential for safe driving because it aids in stopping. When the light turns on, pull over carefully and give a mechanic a call immediately.

2. ECU / Engine warning light

warning light engine in car dashboard

The majority of ECU light systems indicate the fault’s severity using red and amber coding. When you see a red light, it means there is a significant problem. You should stop the car and contact a breakdown service right away.

Top tip: You should be able to drive safely if the light is amber, but once you get to your destination, make sure to schedule an appointment with a mechanic because this typically indicates an issue with the exhaust emissions.

3. Airbag warning light

A red speedometer with assorted warning lights.

If there is an issue with either your seatbelt mechanism or your airbag system, your airbag warning light will illuminate. This typically indicates that the airbag system needs to be reset or that there is an issue with the battery or wiring.

Top tip: If there’s a garage nearby, proceed to drive slowly or pull over safely as soon as you see the light turn on.

It is not advised to drive while the airbag warning light is on because if you are in an accident and your airbags don’t deploy for you or your passenger, it might be fatal.

4. Diesel particulate filter warning light

Diesel particulate filter light

Soot accumulation in the exhaust system of diesel cars can result in a clog. Some vehicles come equipped with an integrated “regenerator” that burns soot and clears the accumulation, although it only works at specific speeds.

Your car’s performance may suffer if the soot buildup in your exhaust is not removed since it will restrict airflow.

Top tip: To activate the regeneration system in warmer weather, drive safely to the closest 40 mph+ limit and stay there for about ten minutes. In the winter, however, this is not advised at all, and we strongly advise getting in touch with a mechanic.

5. Battery warning light

Low battery light on car dashboard. 3D rendered illustration.

There is a problem with the charging system if the battery warning light comes on when you switch on your car and stays on while the engine is running.

This might be the result of problems like a loose wire or lower temperatures slowing down a battery’s chemical reaction and impairing its capacity to maintain charge.

It could mean you eventually run out of power and come to a halt while driving.

Top tip: As soon as you can, schedule an appointment with your technician or a local battery professional.

6. Oil pressure warning

Oil light on car dashboard. 3D rendered illustration.

When the oil pressure light appears, it may indicate a number of issues, such as low oil or an engine problem.

Operating a vehicle with an oil leak can seriously harm the engine and perhaps render it irreparable.

Top tip: When the light appears while you’re driving, stop, dial for help from a mechanic, or get roadside assistance.

1 thought on “Stay safe on icy roads: 6 warning lights UK drivers should never ignore”

  1. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin

    Where to start with this one. First of all, the red brake warning light has nothing to do with pad wear. If the facility is fitted, it is an amber light. The red brake warning lights does but one thing. It advises the driver of low fluid level and this can only ever be caused by a leak. Even if pads were worn to the point of going metal to metal, there is sufficient spare capacity in the resevoir to allow for safe braking.

    The ABS warning light merely warns the driver that there is a problem with the electronics in the system and the ABS might not work properly. Far more important in winter is to ensure that the brake fluid is not contaminated. Brake fluid is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture. At just 3% contamination, the boiling point hs dropped to around 120C, down from around 260C. More to the point, moisture in the fluid will cause internal corrosion although it is unlikely to freeze.

    The diesel particulate warning light should clear by running at higher speeds for a while. Why running at 40 mph when safe to do so in the winter is not recommended is totally beyond me. DPFs generally are only an issue with vehciles doing lots of cold running, short journeys.

    The charging light is exactly that. It tells you if the alternator is not charging. It does not monitor the battery which can lose a cell which, with the engine running, is unnoticeable. Of course, once switched off there will be insufficent voltage to re-start it.

    The oil pressure light monitors just that. Oil pressure. Many cars also have a low oil level light and some have dispensed with the dip stick altogether. Oil level sensors can and do go wrong but over the decades, dipsticks have proved utterly reliable.

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