car warning lights
CC image courtesy of Jim Larrison via Flickr

What should you do if your check engine light comes on? You probably don’t need to stop whatever you are doing and head straight for your Fort Collins automotive shop, as many things can activate and trigger the stop engine light to come on. That light is not an emergency signal, more of an indication that something needs checking. Other dashboard indicators, however, such as a low oil light need to be addressed as soon as possible. There are numerous reasons for the check engine light to come on, and virtually none of those causes tend to be disastrous. Don’t panic. However, lets take a look at those other warning lights.  As with the check engine light, many of the other warning lights in your vehicle signal a need for service, and not necessarily an emergency.

  • Airbag/SRS light:  If this light starts to glow, it is an indication that your airbags are not able to deflate in the event of an accident. Schedule a service at your Fort Collins automotive shop.
  • Oil light: The oil light activating is simply a warning to let you know that the oil pressure value in the car’s engine is low. This could cause a serious problem. Pull over safely, and check the oil level in your vehicle. If it is low, (and it most likely is,) hopefully you have motor oil on hand. Fill it up to the recommended level. If this is done, and the oil light activates again within a short period of time (A week, for example,) you have some kind of leak. At this point, your vehicle needs to be looked at by your mechanic. Do not continue to drive a vehicle with low oil pressure, whatever the cause, as lack of sufficient lubrication can cause catastrophic engine damage.
  • Traction control or stability light: Something is not operating right within the system. You can still drive the vehicle, but take extra care in turns, or on slippery roads. Set up a servicing appointment and get it addressed.
  • ABS light: Activation of this light indicates a malfunction within your braking system, not necessarily brake failure. If your brakes are still operational, proceed cautiously, but it is advisable to get the anti lock braking system evaluated and serviced as soon as possible.
  • Brake light: Check the brake by gently pushing on the pedal with your foot. If it feels spongy, or goes all the way to the floor without any resistance, stop your vehicle. If pushing on the brake stops the car, check to see if your engine needs brake fluid. If the problem is low brake fluid, and you add the appropriate quantity, and the brake light comes back on, have your vehicle checked out. This indicates a leak or other problem within the braking system.
  • Charging system light: If this light comes on, it is an indication of some kind of mechanical failure occurring within the charging system, like the alternator or other power devices. If you still have enough power to drive the vehicle, get it to your Fort Collins automotive shop, and have the problem corrected before your engine shuts down completely.

Sometimes  warning lights will momentarily turn on, only to quickly turn off again. These are generally not a concern. If any warning light stays on, however, it is an indication of a problem within the system it is designated to monitor. If you can’t alleviate the problem on your own, say by adding oil to the engine, or braking fluid, the car needs to be evaluated for maintenance and possible repair. Ignoring any of these lights is not in the best interest of your cars health, but usually, not a dire emergency, either. See what you can do to address the problem, get your vehicle off the road if necessary, and schedule car repair in Fort Collins at your favorite auto shop.

emergency flare
By Krzysztof Burghardt (//, CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Which leads us to the next item, what should you keep in your vehicle as part of an emergency repair kit?. Here is a general list of items to keep in your vehicle. You may never need some of these, but if the situation arises where they can help you with an emergency, or enable you to either deal with a problem on your own or summon help, you will be very glad you put this kit together. Your Fort Collins automotive shop can advise you on what should be in your kit in addition to these staples.

Start with a basic first aid kit, a gallon of water, and a spare cell phone and charger. Add appropriate tools and fluids for your car, and for your area. In Colorado and Fort Collins, these items might not be the same as those you would assemble for a car used in Texas or Oregon. Make sure you are familiar with the correct usage of the components of your emergency kit, and check it periodically for anything that might need to be replaced. Here is a list of some suggested items for an emergency kit in Fort Collins;

  • Fire extinguisher (multipurpose, dry-chemical compact unit labeled 1A:10B:C or 2A:10B:C)
  • Jack and lug wrench, a non flammable foam tire sealant  and a good spare tire.
  •  Spare fuses.
  • Jumper cables or a portable battery booster.
  • Motor oil, brake fluid, antifreeze and steering fluid, and any other liquids your car uses.
  • Warning light, hazard triangles, or flares. These are to warn other drivers on the road should your care be incapacitated and pose a hazard to other vehicles. For your own visual tool, get a sturdy waterproof flashlight or two. Be sure to include extra batteries with your flashlight. Several flashlights on the market double as flashers, and purchasing some of these could take care of both emergency lighting needs with one tool.