Research suggests that a staggering 98% of drivers don’t understand what all of the most common warning or information lights on a car dashboard mean.
That’s according to Britannia Rescue, who questioned 2,018 drivers in July. Each driver was shown a series of the most common dashboard symbols and was asked to name the symbol or describe its meaning.
71% of the drivers didn’t recognise a tyre pressure warning light, with 4% thinking it had something to do with the oil or brakes. Over a third of drivers also failed to recognise an airbag warning symbol, with 27% mistaking it for a seatbelt warning.
Part of the problem seems to be a lack of consistency across the different manufacturers. Britannia Rescue compared 15 of the most popular new cars and found 99 different dashboard symbols, with only 12 replicated across all models.
The number of symbols used also seems to vary from car to car, with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class displaying 41 different lights, the Fiat Punto showing 33 and the Skoda Octavia 31.
Many of us will recognise a light bulb as a reference to the headlights, a trumpet for the horn and a snowflake for air conditioning. And yet, just 10% of the drivers surveyed know what all of these symbols mean.
Not only is it dangerous to ignore a warning light, it can also be incredibly costly. Research has shown that drivers who took 14 days to repair their car would be faced with an average bill £200, whereas drivers who had the car fixed immediately spent just £85.
Speaking for Britannia Rescue, Peter Horton said:
“Dashboard warning lights are like alarm bells telling you something is wrong with your car and urgent action may be required, either to prevent damage to your car or for your own safety.
“If a warning symbol lights up, you should stop in a safe place as soon as possible and check what the problem is.”
Drivers could also benefit from doing that unfashionable thing: reading the manual. It’s not just there to use up space in the glovebox.