Article By Eden Motor Group

What Does the Engine Coolant Warning Light Mean?

When a warning light flashes up on your dashboard it can be worrying. Should you carry on driving, or pull over straight away? Eden’s experts are here to help you understand what you should do if you see a symbol illuminate on your instrument panel.In this guide, we are going to be taking a look at the engine coolant warning light; what it means and what you should do if you see it.​

What does the engine coolant warning light mean?

Individual car manufacturers will use different symbols for the coolant warning light, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the car’s manual or ask a member of Eden’s staff to show you when you take delivery of your new car or are next in for a service.

Most cars will also flash up all of the warning lights briefly when you turn on the ignition as part of a test cycle, so you may be able to spot it then too. Generally, it will look like a thermometer floating in water, or possibly like a radiator.

Some cars and vans which do not have a separate engine temperature gauge will show the symbol lit up in blue when the car is cold. This is nothing to worry about – it merely shows the engine is warming up and is not yet at its ideal working temperature. When it shows, it is good practice not to put the engine under too much strain as the oil will not be able to offer the maximum protection and you may use more fuel.

The light may also show amber, which means the coolant level is low, or red, which means it is below the minimum or the car is overheating.

In any of these cases you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and check the level of the coolant manually.  If you are not confident to do this yourself, then call your breakdown provider for help.

Is it safe to keep driving if my engine coolant light comes on?

If the light is red, you should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and switch off the engine. If the coolant level is low or there is another problem with your cooling system, you could cause serious damage by continuing to drive. Then you can do some basic checks yourself or call for help.

What causes the engine coolant warning light to come on?

The light could be caused by several factors, but the most likely is either a loss of coolant or a fault with the sensor.

A coolant loss could be caused by a leak somewhere in the system, such as a split hose or a hole in the radiator. You might be able to see, hear of even smell this when you open the bonnet.

If there is no sign of a leak, have a look at the coolant tank – it will usually have a bright yellow cap and a picture of the radiator. It’s important that you don’t get it confused with the brake fluid reservoir – the coolant tank is generally going to be bigger and should have symbols and warnings on it to help guide you.

There will be maximum and minimum markings on the side. If the level looks OK, it may be a sensor which is at fault. It’s important that you don’t open the cap while the engine is hot, or you risk being burned by the escaping coolant.

If you are not able to fix the car yourself, call your breakdown provider and the experts at Eden will be able to diagnose the problem easily.

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