Car Trivia: Five Secret Warning Lights in Your Car

September 19, 2010

There are a number of things that everyone who drives a car knows. These would include that the headlight switch is always to the left of the steering wheel and that the brake pedal has to be depressed to start the car.

Now let’s go up just one level and test your automotive awareness. If you find the quiz less than challenging, bask in the glow of your automotive knowledge--or just treat it as very easy trivia contest.

1.)    What does it mean when your turn signal indicator flashes rapidly? A rapidly flashing turn signal arrow on your dash means that you have a burned-out or damaged turn signal bulb on that side of the vehicle.

2.)    The brake light on the dash has dual purposes what are they? The light on the dash that says “BRAKE” not only tells you that the parking brake is applied, but also monitors the level of brake fluid in the brake master cylinder. Another tidbit is that as the brake pads wear down, more brake fluid is expended when the brakes are applied--which in turn causes the brake fluid level to go down due to increased pedal travel. So the brake light on the dash indirectly monitors the brake pad life, but don’t ever rely on that light to warn you that new brake lining is needed. A periodic visual inspection is needed for that.

3.)    Did you know that most cars have two signal flashers. What are they for? There is usually a flasher for the turn signals and one for the hazard lights. Technicians are frustrated by this because the underneath of a dashboard is no place to hold a scavenger hunt. Standing on your head to locate and replace a flasher probably is not a healthy choice if your blood pressure is already elevated.

4.)    Why doesn’t your low tire pressure light go out when you re-inflate the tire to the prescribed pressure? The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) uses a radio signal to alert your car’s computer to illuminate the light which is represented by a cutaway of a tire on the dash. In some TPMS configurations the signal is only sent on a pre-determined schedule, so you may have to wait as long as 11 hours for the light to reset. If it doesn’t reset by then you may have picked up another nail.

5.)    If a faulty MAF sensor caused a DTC to trip your OBDII what happened to your MIL (Three Word Answer Please)? It came on. Let’s say a fly got sucked in through the air filter of your Chevy Equinox, it would cause a problem with your Mass Air Flow sensor causing a Diagnostic Trouble Code to set in your On Board Diagnostic system and illuminate the Malfunction Indicator Lamp a device on the dash that the great masses of uniformed refer to as the check engine light.

If you had five correct answers, your automotive expertise rivals that of a first-semester automotive technology student at the secondary school level. On the other hand, if you answered none of the questions correctly, continue your ongoing search for an honest mechanic.           

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