Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

What Does It Mean When the Dashboard Warning Lights Blink?

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
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

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

More related articles

Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
Rules of the Road For Iowa Drivers
Driving on the roads requires knowledge of the rules, many of which are based on common sense and courtesy. However, even though you know the rules in...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...


Related questions

Q: Car wouldn't go and all of the warning lights came.

Hi there. Either the timing belt came off or the crankshaft position sensor could have failed. Remove the valve cover and crank the engine over. If the engine crank turns and the valve train moves, then the timing belt is...

Q: Dash lights wont turn off.

It sounds like you may have an internal short within your light switch assembly caused by water intrusion. Having your dash lights on all night is what killed your battery. A certified technician, like one from YourMechanic, will be able...

Q: My 2002 Honda Odyssey has a Check Engine light. It's supposed to be a misfire. The mechanic adjusted valves and changed coils but the issue remains

Hello. What problem code is stored for the Check Engine light? Hopefully all the plugs and all the coils were changed. If there was oil leaking (from the valve cover gasket) onto the plugs or rubber coil boots, this can...