October Car Care Month: AAA Warns Motorists to ‘See the Light’

BURNSVILLE, Minn., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — Every time you start your car they glow to greet you, but usually, after few seconds of engine operation, they fade away — hopefully not to be seen again until the next engine start. As part of October Car Care Month, AAA urges motorists to be aware of the red and yellow indicators on a vehicle’s instrument panel that illuminate when a problem occurs.

“Motorists need to be aware of the critical ‘big three’ warning lights, which include those that monitor engine oil pressure, engine coolant temperature and vehicle charging system,” says Gail Weinholzer, AAA Minnesota/Iowa Public Affairs. “To reduce the chances of vehicle damage or a roadside breakdown, these warning lights require prompt and proper action when they illuminate.”

When the ignition key is first turned to the ON position, all of the vehicle’s warning lights should illuminate. The “big three” lights typically remain on until the engine is started and running. If a warning light fails to illuminate at this time, have the related system checked out by an auto repair facility. Once the engine is running, all the warning lights should go out within a few seconds. If any light remains illuminated, consult your owner’s manual or the sections below for further information. Details include:

— Engine Oil Pressure – The engine oil pressure warning light commonly
displays an oil can symbol or the word “OIL.” When the oil pressure
warning light illuminates, the engine has lost its supply of
pressurized lubricating oil and severe engine damage or catastrophic
failure can occur within seconds. Of all the warning lights, the oil
pressure light indicates the greatest potential for serious mechanical
damage, and also allows you the shortest time in which to take
appropriate action. If the oil pressure warning light comes on and
stays on, pull off the road immediately, shut off the engine and call
for emergency roadside assistance. Unless you are in an extremely
dangerous situation, do not attempt to drive the vehicle any farther.
This can significantly increase the extent of any engine damage,
turning a possibly minor repair into a complete engine replacement.

— Engine Coolant Temperature – The engine coolant temperature warning
light commonly displays a thermometer symbol or the logo “TEMP.” When
the coolant temperature light illuminates, the engine temperature has
exceeded the safe maximum. Until the rise in coolant temperature is
reversed, the engine will suffer accelerated wear. If the increase in
temperature continues, major engine damage or catastrophic failure
will result. The coolant temperature warning light is second only to
the oil pressure warning light in indicating the potential for serious
mechanical damage. However, the coolant temperature light does give
you a little more time in which to take appropriate action. If the
coolant temperature warning light comes on, quickly assess the
situation. Steam or liquid coolant coming from under the hood are
clear indications of overheating and/or a leak. Pull off the road at
the first safe opportunity and call for assistance. A lack of steam
or leaking coolant does not mean it is safe to drive the vehicle.
Continuing to operate an engine with an illuminated temperature
warning light will result in a major damage and a significant repair
bill. Caution — boiling coolant can cause severe burns! Do not
attempt to open the hood in the presence of excessive steam, and never
remove the radiator cap when the engine is hot. The cooling system is
under pressure and scalding coolant will be expelled with great force.

— Charging System – The charging system warning light commonly displays
a battery symbol or the logo “ALT” or “GEN.” When the charging system
warning light illuminates, the vehicle electrical system is no longer
being supplied with power by the alternator. A charging system
failure rarely results in serious mechanical damage, and of the “big
three” warning lights, this one gives you the greatest amount of time
to take appropriate action. Depending on the electrical demands of
your vehicle, and the reserve capacity of its battery, you generally
will have at least 20 minutes of daylight driving time before voltage
drops to the point where the ignition system will no longer function
and the engine will quit. If the charging system warning light comes
on, turn off all unnecessary electrical accessories and drive to the
nearest repair facility to have the vehicle checked. If you are some
distance from a repair shop, drive to a safe location where you can
call for a tow.

AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities have been thoroughly investigated by the association and offer written estimates, the return of used parts, and a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty. In addition, AAA members receive a free maintenance inspection with paid repairs, and the right to have AAA mediate any dispute regarding the work done. To locate an Approved Auto Repair facility in your area, visit the Automotive page of http://www.aaa.com/ .

AAA ( http://www.aaa.com/ ) offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services to more than 45 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA Minnesota/Iowa is part of The Auto Club Group, with 4.1 million members in eight Midwest states.

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