Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Here's Your Handy Guide To The Most Confusing Warning Lights

Illustration for article titled Heres Your Handy Guide To The Most Confusing Warning Lights

So-called “idiot lights” have been in cars an awful long time — basically, since that moment someone realized it’d be cheaper to just have a little bulb come on when everything was going to shit instead of having a gauge that would warn of imminent shit-goings. Modern cars have more than ever, and many have bewildering symbols. So, here’s a chart of the 20 most confusing ones.


Most dashboard warning lights are identified with symbols as opposed to actual text. This is so an international, language-independent standard can be established, and to avoid warning lights six inches long that read CATYLYTIC CONVERTER SYSTEM TEMPERATURE WARNING and stuff like that. Conceptually, this isn’t a bad idea at all, but it does mean that a lot of warning lights have arcane, confusing hieroglyphics that look like snakes dancing around someone’s lunch or something.

This chart is designed to help you figure out what the hell is going on when your car lights up something that looks like a duck or someone’s junk, or something from a weather map. It doesn’t have the easy stuff we all know — alternator, oil, turn indicators, gas, all that stuff, because, duh, we all know them. These are just the confusing, obscure, or easily mistaken ones.


So, here you go! It includes a little description to help you remember/identify (some look slightly different based on manufacturer) as well as the actual meaning. Now, I just did 20 and I’m sure there’s plenty more that deserve to be here — so, if you like, stick any others in the comments, and we can try to make this page a handy resource the next time your car blinks on a light that looks just like a couple of teacups making love in seaweed.

Enjoy! (You can click here for a big one!)

Illustration for article titled Heres Your Handy Guide To The Most Confusing Warning Lights

Contact the author at

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Rear Fog Lights? What car has that? I guess they function like running lights? Not sure who would be driving in reverse so fast they need rear fog lights.