What Does It Mean When the Dashboard Warning Lights Blink?

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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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Bernie

50 years of experience
41 reviews
Bernie
50 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I specifically asked for Bernie to come back, since I was so pleased with the work he did on our other car. This time I got to meet Bernie personally. He is a kind family-man who exhibited the quiet confidence of someone you would expect with the 50 years of automotive experience that he has. I felt very comfortable giving him the key to my car. Two of my kids (ages two and four) came out to greet him, since they remembered him from his first visit. Bernie is great around kids and was very kind to my two-year old son who was trying to "help" Bernie do his job. Thanks again, Bernie!
Honda Odyssey - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
I was very pleased with Bernie's work, professionalism, and courteousness. Best brake job I have ever had, and I have had many done (and several done myself, but not on this vehicle). This was a maintenance appointment -- not a repair of something broken -- so I was surprised when the brakes felt so much better after Bernie did the work. You can really see the care he took with our vehicle when I examined everything after he was finished. Thanks, Bernie!

Daniel

9 years of experience
17 reviews
Daniel
9 years of experience
Hyundai Sonata - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Sacramento, California
Awesome customer service. On time and answered my questions with patience. Listened to my concerns and made helpful suggestions. Seemed very knowledgeable and experienced. I will be glad to request him again. Thank you!!

Breck

18 years of experience
532 reviews
Breck
18 years of experience
Toyota RAV4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Conroe, Texas
Breck was awesome! He called ahead of time and asked if he could arrive early. He was friendly and easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable with the service he was going to provide and explained things clearly to me. He smiled and made this experience a good one. I will absolutely be booking future appointments with Breck and I will recommend him and Your Mechanic services to others I know. Thank you!

Brian

19 years of experience
101 reviews
Brian
19 years of experience
BMW Z4 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Phoenix, Arizona
Brian knows what he is doing and I am so happy yourmechanic.com suggested him for my Z4 car inspection prior to purchasing and even happier he was available to perform my 1st service on the vehicle I purchased. His knowledge on the brand gave him ability to to an in depth inspection and he communicated very well informing me what to prepare for in ownership of my BMW. When he came to perform maintenance on my vehicle he shared so many tips with me. I will absolutely be having Brian come back out when I need future servicing on my car.

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