How to read your car’s display

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28 Aug 2018 by smartleasing

Cars today typically have fewer instruments than they used to, but even some of what remains can be a mystery. And the simplicity of the modern instrument panel quickly evaporates if something goes wrong – then, one or more of a veritable Christmas tree of warning lights will start twinkling for attention.

Knowing exactly what your car is trying to tell you, then, is vital. Here are some of the key things to watch out for, as well as some handy hints.

The Tachometer

This tells you how fast the engine is spinning which, in an automatic, isn’t much use at all. But if you drive a manual – or choose to use your auto in a manual-shift mode – knowing the engine’s revs will help you keep it operating in its most efficient or productive range.

The Arrow

Look at the fuel gauge and you’ll see an arrow near the bowser symbol – this tells you which side of the car the fuel filler is located.

The Trip Computer

This allows you to measure and access all kinds of useful information, from average speed and instantaneous/average fuel economy to the distance remaining until the fuel tank is emptied.

The Warnings

A general rule of thumb can be applied here. Red means something major. Yellow or orange typically notifies something less urgent but requiring attention. Green signifies when a feature is operational (for example, fog lights).

Engine temperature

If you haven’t obeyed a rising temperature gauge, this red thermometer will light up to tell you the engine is now running dangerously hot. On some cars, it shines blue after starting until the engine has reached its optimum operating temperature.

Oil pressure

This little red oil can means your engine is either dangerously low on oil or oil pressure. Both conditions are a pre-requisite for a dead engine.

Tyre pressure

This yellow exclamation mark within a tyre will pop up if one or more tyres are running low on pressure.

Check engine

This yellow outline of an engine is there to tell you when something’s not quite right and can cover a host of conditions. Your car will typically still run, but it needs to be checked out.


This red-glowing ‘person with a pillow’ tells you when something is wrong with an airbag or airbags.

Stability/traction control

This yellow sliding car will pop up if your car’s stability/traction-control system either has a problem or has been intentionally disengaged by the driver.

Head-up Displays (HUDs)

These project various information onto a little screen on top of the dash or the base of the windscreen, at eye level (hence the name). Lower-end systems cover only basic information, but more sophisticated systems can feature a vast array of information, including detailed navigation information, plus the ability to select different layouts.

Time for an upgrade?

With all the new technology available – particularly the technology that keeps us safer on the road – you may be thinking it’s time to upgrade your car.

Upgrading to a new car with a novated lease from Smartleasing includes test drives organised through our trusted dealer network; help with organising finance and insurance and any other cover and services you would like for peace of mind.

Best of all, when it comes to negotiating a deal, Smartleasing’s buying power can save you hundreds – and most often, thousands – on the price of your new car.

Start by seeing how much Smartleasing can save you on the car you love. Calculate your savings here >