Dashboard lights on an Infiniti QX50.

Can multiple dashboard lights be from one issue?

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Having a light on your vehicle’s dashboard turn on can catch your attention and even be a bit distracting. Multiple dashboard lights, however, might cause some concern.

The tire pressure light, check engine light, oil pressure warning light, and anti-lock braking system (ABS) light are some of the symbols you may see.

Different meanings are typically associated with each of them, and more than one problem could be behind the alert. But did you know that multiple dashboard lights can stem from one issue?

Multiple dashboard lights, one problem

On specific vehicles, a problem might result in a couple of symptoms or prompt more than one icon to appear on the dashboard.

Certain manufacturers will trigger multiple lights to catch the driver’s attention and encourage them to stop driving.

This would sometimes occur on older Toyotas. If your check engine light came on, so would your traction control light and vehicle stability assist (VSA) light. 

A lot of customers would say they all turned on at the same time. Usually, this meant that the problem was related to the check engine light and led to the other lights illuminating.

For some GMs today, it will say that the stability control is off if your vehicle is experiencing a major engine misfire. The shaking of the vehicle could impact the ABS system.

A problem with a battery or alternator could trigger different lights and many codes. You could get a code or a light for the air bag, ABS and check engine at the same time.

The diagnostic process

Check engine light and TPMS light on a Mitsubishi Outlander.How we resolve dashboard lights varies.

During check engine light diagnostics, our technicians pull codes using a scan tool. These codes act as a starting point. Then, we look up Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) to check for any safety recalls or updated parts. If there are no safety recalls, we perform component testing based on the codes.

Check engine lights are very broad because each system operates differently.

Looking into the ABS light has a similar procedure. However, rather than an Engine Control Unit (ECU), the ABS system has an ABS computer that talks to different systems and collects information.

For the TPMS, there are sensors that read the pressure and have a radio frequency that is sent to the dashboard. When TPMS was first designed, it was much more complicated, very difficult to figure out, and expensive to repair. Now, it’s very simple. Certain vehicles don’t have sensors in their wheels. Instead, they read off the ride height.

Oil pressure sensors have constant power. The light will come on if it loses its ground, which is oil.

Testing the dashboard lights

We have had drivers bring their vehicle in and say that multiple dashboard lights are rooted in one problem. However, we aren’t able to confirm that this is the case until we start looking into it.

The various lights require various types of testing. Every system, manufacturer and monitor differ. To add to the complications, there are also many makes and models.

So, determining why a vehicle has multiple dashboard lights isn’t necessarily a straight path. It can take time and the process could change based on the situation.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located near Lake Ridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.