Cars are complex and can be overwhelming when prompted by those little gauges and lights in your dash cluster. While the complexity is rising, the issues you may find yourself dealing with often are the same. These are three big things that will keep you from losing your hard earned money (or at the least, keep more of it).
This little light, which is often the shape of a little red oil can, is telling you that you have a serious and potentially fatal engine condition. It means you have little to no engine oil in that expensive chunk of aluminum and steel under your hood or the oil that should have been changed is now solid from overuse. Ignore it and the engine you have, will now be the engine you once had. Engines have many rotating parts and when oil isn't present or in its liquid form, the rotating stops. Permanently.
If you see this light come on, get to a place where you can safely park and shut the engine off immediately. Paying attention to the light and getting the engine turned off before it seizes will save you thousands of dollars.
Most vehicles today have an analog gauge that allows continual monitoring of the coolant temperature. Some less expensive models have warning lamps that show you one of two things: the engine is cold, or the engine is hot.
If your vehicle has an analog gauge, pay attention to where the needle normally sits. In fact, try to form a habit of checking this gauge everytime you check your speed. You can prevent yourself from being stranded by knowing where it should be. Now, if it begins to climb significantly past normal, you have time to get to a service station or back to a safe and comfortable place.
As for the other type of coolant temperature indicator: the warning lamp. There is no knowing a problem exists with the cooling system until the problem is potentially harmful. So, know that if this light comes on, you have very little time to get the vehicle shut off and into the repair facility.
Newer engines are resilient but one serious overheat can cause warpage and credit card debt.
FLASHING CHECK ENGINE
A check engine light, or service engine soon light, is a great way to know something is wrong. Fortunately, not all of the reasons for its pesky existance mean anything is going to happen to your engine if should continue to drive. But, a flashing check engine light does. It means there is a misfire in your engine that is bad enough to do damage to the catalytic converters.
Ignoring this light, which will be hard to do being that you will feel like you're driving a washing machine, will turn the insides of the catalysts into tailpipe shrapnel and will result in a permanent check engine light. Fixing a misfire usually involves spark plugs or ignition coils and is fairly cheap. However, replacing catalytic converters can be as expensive as replacing an engine.