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.


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Torrieanto

11 years of experience
578 reviews
Torrieanto
11 years of experience
Hyundai Elantra - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Clearwater, Florida
Amazing workmanship, pays attention to detail, and treated me like a person. Not as a number. Thank you very much Torrieantos!!
BMW 535i - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - St. Leo, Florida
He was fantastic, came on time, great communication, and took care of the service great. Thank you.

Nick

9 years of experience
12 reviews
Nick
9 years of experience
Toyota Corolla - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - Elk Grove, California
I am very satisfied he was very professional and was quick and did an amazing job I would definitely recommend him!!

Robert

30 years of experience
596 reviews
Robert
30 years of experience
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - San Jose, California
Robert was very honest about not needing a service I had requested and was also committed to only using quality parts as to not cause troubles down the road. I highly recommend him and wouldn’t hesitate to have him work on issues in the future.

Alexander

5 years of experience
55 reviews
Alexander
5 years of experience
Lexus RX330 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - West Jefferson, Ohio
I had never heard of your mechanic but I am so GLAD that I did. My Lexus had a parking break issue so I could not move it. Alex came and looked over my SUV and verified it was the parking break but he also found that my rear brakes and rotors were horrible. When we tried to start it he found out the alternator was prohibiting it starting even tho I just got a new battery. Alex had to come back to do all of the work but it is done and we are grateful. Alex is so nice and so extremely knowledgeable. He is VERY car smart but humble. Answered every question we had. Just so grateful he was our mechanic for my vehicle. The price was VERY reasonable. We will definitely use your mechanic again and hopefully we will be able to get Alex.

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