What Does It Mean When the Dashboard Warning Lights Blink?

Your vehicle's onboard diagnostic system (OBD II) monitors other onboard systems to communicate vital information to you. For most vehicles, the only way the car can deliver that information is through dashboard warning lights (some new, high-end vehicles can use the infotainment system to communicate some information). It’s important that you know what each light on your dashboard indicates, and what it means when they light up.

What does it mean when the dashboard warning lights blink?

There’s no single answer as to why a dashboard warning light might blink. Each light in your dash is tied to a different system. The OBD II system on your car only controls the Check Engine Light, for instance. The ABS system is tied to the ABS light. The tire pressure monitoring system uses the TPMS light (which might spell out TPMS, or might be a picture of a tire). What’s more, there are different types of flashes that you should know.

  • Brief flashing during engine startup and then off: It is normal if your dash warning lights flash briefly right after cranking your engine and then turn off. Each system performs a self-check when you turn on your car. The lights turn off after verifying that the systems are operating.

  • Flashes and then stays on: If one of your dash warning lights flashes briefly and then stays on, it means there’s a problem with whatever system that light is tied to. For example, your Check Engine Light might flash and then stay lit if there’s a misfire in the engine, or if one of your oxygen sensors has failed.

  • Flashes without stopping: Generally, only the Check Engine Light will flash constantly, and only if the OBD II system detects multiple issues. Constant flashing could indicate any variety of problems, so it's safest to avoid driving and have a mechanic inspect your car as soon as possible.

There are other lights that might flash without stopping, including the following:

In the end, whether a warning light comes on or stays on, or starts flashing, it’s an indication that there is a problem, and a potentially serious one (particularly with flashing dash lights). It’s important to have your vehicle inspected by a professional mechanic immediately.


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

How Far Can You Drive on Empty in the UK?
Know how many miles you can drive on an empty gas tank to prevent a breakdown. Citroen C4 Picassos can go the farthest when the low fuel light is on.
P0846 OBD-II Trouble Code: Transmission Fluid Pressure Sensor/Switch "B" Circuit Range/Performance
P0846 means there's a malfunction relating to the transmission fluid pressure sensor circuit, due to a faulty component relating to the transmission.
How Long Does an Idle Control Valve Last?
Among Among the most important factors in having a smooth running car is a consistent idle speed. Having the incorrect idle speed can lead to a variety of different issues. There are a number of different components that have to...

Related questions

Check engine light and grinding noise when turning left

Hello. You appear to have a number of issues going on here. The grinding is more than likely from the brakes so the vehicle needs to be put in the air and the brakes inspected. As for the steering problem,...

Car keeps stalling.

A check engine light is warning that their is some fault in the pcm or other sub computers, the fact that its stalling and a cel (check engine light) is illuminated tells me there is definitely a problem with either...

Engine fault warning lamp flashing

Hey there. This may suggest a short or potentially a bad fuse or relay problem related to your AC. Your car's computer has what is known as a "fail safe" default that is engaged when the computer detects an electrical...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com