Demystify Your Vehicle’s Instrument Panel

Packed with an array of lights and gauges, the instrument panel in your vehicle can be confusing – especially when unfamiliar indicators illuminate. Before you sound the alarm, consult these three expert tips from Bill Phelan of Mercedes-Benz of Springfield. Since every make and model is different, indicator locations and names may vary.

  1. It’s common for your tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) light to illuminate in cold weather.

When the air temperature drops by 20 or 30 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, it’s fairly common for your TPMS indicator to illuminate. More times than not, the indicator will look like a tire with an exclamation point in it, but your instrument panel may also show the letters, “TPMS.”

During the first few cold snaps of the year, the ambient temperature outside may cause the temperature in your tires to decrease. As temperatures decline, psi will follow at a rate of approximately 1 psi for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Phelan recommends setting your tire’s pressure to 4 psi above the recommended cold tire pressure in the winter months to accommodate tires when they’re warm from driving.

  1. If your check engine light comes on, don’t panic.

Due to the complexity of modern vehicles, the check engine indicator can come on for hundreds of reasons, ranging from minor issues to major problems. As a result, it may take your technician some time to run diagnostics to find the root cause.

Phelan frequently gets asked, “Is my car safe to drive?” When it comes to check engine lights, he advises, “If the indicator’s on steadily, it’s generally okay to get to where you’re going, but you should have your vehicle checked as soon as possible. If it’s flashing, you really shouldn’t drive it. If you can, pull over, get a ride or get it towed. You don’t want to do any further damage.” In all cases, be sure to have your vehicle inspected by your dealership to shed light on any problems.

  1. The presence of multiple warning lights doesn’t always mean multiple issues.

Oftentimes, multiple warning lights signify an interrelated issue. For example, if a vehicle suspects a problem with its antilock braking system, it may prevent its traction control system and self-leveling suspension from working. Phelan explains, “All manufacturers build in a failsafe, where if there’s something wrong with the system, it shuts it down.” Generally speaking, these systems are better off not working than working when they shouldn’t. As a result, multiple indicator lights may illuminate all at once.

When indicator lights come on inside your vehicle, remember to stay calm. If you can’t resolve the issue yourself, it’s best to consult with an automotive technician at a professional service center, like the Mercedes-Benz of Springfield Service Center. Contact our Service Department to schedule an appointment.

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