Guide to Dashboard Indicator Lights


Ever have a VW warning light come on your dashboard and are not sure what it means? How serious is it? Do you need service immediately? Here's our primer on decoding dashboard lights.

Jim Ellis VW of Chamblee's Guide to Decoding Dashboard Indicator Lights

You're driving down the road and catch a glimpse of a mysterious light that seems to have popped up on your dashboard out of nowhere. You've seen Volkswagen dash lights before, but you've never seen anything quite like this.

Can you guess what it means? Maybe. But is that a good idea? Probably not. VW dashboard warning lights are your car's way of communicating with you.You know that when the gas indicator light illuminates, your car is hungry for fuel.

And you may have also seen the oil level indicator. This one illuminates when you've reached or have passed the recommended mileage for an oil change. It's your car's way of reminding you that this needs attention stat. Some warning lights are more alarming than others, and it can be helpful to know the difference.

In this post, we're going to walk through a few lights that are quite critical to your immediate safety. But these aren't the only lights that are important. Every light on your dashboard exists for a reason, and they are all important.

Airbag light

This is one of those VW dash lights that may seem to pop up at random, but there's actually a reason you see the airbag light when you do. Sometimes the airbag light will illuminate when you're transporting something on the passenger seat or when a passenger is leaning too far back in his or her seat. This is because the seat has sensors to detect whether the passenger is safely seated for the airbag to deploy. If the light remains on, it may be a signal that there's a problem with the airbag or sensor. This could be extremely dangerous in the event of an accident, so be sure to get your car to the dealer for inspection and service.

ABS light

This is one of those Volkswagen warning lights that can indicate a major issue or a minor bug. If you notice a light that reads "ABS," this means your anti-lock brake system is malfunctioning. In most cases, this light indicates a problem with the sensors and not the braking system itself, but it's important to get it checked right away.

Automatic transmission malfunction

Your transmission is an integral part of the vehicle's mechanics, and it can also be an expensive repair. But don't let that stop you from getting to the dealership when this light illuminates. The longer you wait, the worse it will get.

Check engine light

This light will give you a general indication that something is wrong with the vehicle, and it needs repair. Depending on your vehicle, this could mean anything from a gas cap that's not screwed on well enough and a bad catalytic converter. You can't tell what's going on from the light alone, and it can be serious, so get your vehicle checked out right away.

Electronic power control light

If the EPC light in your car illuminates, it's time to get it to the dealership. This dashboard light indicates that there's something is likely wrong with the vehicle's throttle system, and it can be dangerous to drive the vehicle with this light illuminated.

Whether it's one of the above VW warning lights or something else, this handy graphic outlines Volkswagen dash light meanings and should help you see what needs attention at a glance.


Red warning symbols: Pull off the road safely and stop the engine immediately
Yellow warning symbols: Check the cause as soon as possible


What do VW dash warning lights mean?

Each light has a different meaning, and each one is color coded to indicate its level of severity. There are around 33 different symbols that may pop up on your dashboard.

Some of the most common lights you see will pop up in green or yellow (but more about the color-coding system below). These include:

  • A green "DRL," indicating that your daytime running lights are on
  • A yellow "ABS," indicating that your anti-lock braking system may be malfunctioning
  • A yellow engine, which indicates that you need to check your engine for malfunctions
  • A yellow gas pump symbol, which tells you that your fuel is low and it's time to fill up again

Remember, it's normal for all your dashboard lights to quickly blink once upon ignition. This is simply a test that all the lights are working.

What's the difference between red, yellow, and green VW vehicle dash lights?

The lights on your dash are color coded to indicate different levels of severity. The green lights don't warrant any action on your part; they are just used to convey information. The yellow lights indicate that there may be a potential issue with a system in your car. If you see a yellow light, you should use caution while driving and check the related system once you park.

The most important thing to note is that the red color indicates an important and potentially dangerous issue with your car. If you see a red light flicker on your dash, you should stop your car in a safe place immediately and turn it off. If it's a more simple red light issue, like the hood being open, you can shut your hood and continue safely on once the light has disappeared. Other issues may require your car to be towed to the nearest service center to get a fix.

How to troubleshoot dashboard warning lights?

The easiest way to determine what your dashboard warning lights mean is to look at your Owner's Manual for information. It can tell you exactly what the light means and what is needed to resolve the issue. If you're unsure of anything, cannot access your manual, or know that your car has a high-severity issue, it's best to contact your local Volkswagen Service Center to set up an appointment. The issue could be as simple as a sensor not working properly, or it could be as serious as an engine malfunction. So, don't risk it. Come see us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your VW vehicle's dash warning light meanings.

Jim Ellis Volkswagen of Chamblee - Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)