What 15 Symbols On Your Car's Dashboard Mean

VikiVector/iStock via Getty Images
VikiVector/iStock via Getty Images

When something goes wrong with your car or if a feature you should know about gets activated, a signal funnels through the electrical system and into the dashboard. This illuminates a hieroglyphic, and these cover a wide range of issues—some of which may be serious. Here are the meanings behind 15 of these curious-looking markers (and what they look like, in case you need a mnemonic device to help your memory).

Your dashboard may be different and the symbols may have altered designs or indicate slightly different things, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual. Some of these lights could portend a serious malfunction. Don't ignore them. When in doubt, have a professional check it out. (For more information on dashboard symbols for all types of cars, check out this resource.)

1. Engine Temperature Warning Light

Car dashboard's engine temperature warning light
iStock

What it looks like: A pirate ship with its sails down as if to say, “I’m just a normal boat, no pirates here.”

What it means: Your engine is too hot, friend. Here is a useful guide for what to do if your engine overheats.

2. Tire Pressure Warning Light

Car dashboard's tire pressure warning light
iStock

What it looks like: A Buckingham Palace guard telling you the field goal is GOOD!

What it means: The pressure in one or more of your tires is too low and needs to be attended to.

3. Oil Pressure Warning

Car dashboard's oil pressure warning
iStock

What it looks like: You’re about to get three wishes.

What it means: Your engine is running low on oil, or there is a problem with your car's oil pressure system.

4. Traction Control

Car dashboard's traction control
iStock

What it looks like: Cthulhu wearing a fedora.

What it means: The car's traction control system is engaged.

5. Engine Warning

Car dashboard's engine warning
iStock

What it looks like: Yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine.

What it means: It can blink on for a number of reasons. Read about some of those here.

6. Antilock Brake Warning

Car dashboard's antilock brake warning
iStock

What it looks like: The cover of a fitness magazine.

What it means: There is an issue with your anti-lock brake system that needs to be diagnosed and fixed.

7. Automatic Shift Lock or Engine Start Indicator

Car's automatic shift lock or engine start indicator
iStock

What it looks like: The bat signal, if Bruce Wayne had been traumatized in a shoe closet instead of a bat cave as a child.

What it means: You need to engage the brake, either to start your car's ignition or to get it out of neutral.

8. Battery Alert

Car dashboard's battery alert
iStock

What it looks like: Math LEGO.

What it means: The car's charging system is short of power. You are running solely on battery.

9. Fuel Indicator Symbol

Car dashboard's fuel indicator
iStock

What it looks like: A snake-infested ATM.

What it means: You are running low on fuel. Fun fact: The symbol on the fuel gauge also has an arrow next to it—this indicates which side of the car has the gas cap. No more gas station three-point turns in rental cars ever again.

10. Seatbelt Reminder Light

Car dashboard's seatbelt reminder light
iStock

What it looks like: James Carville wearing a bandolier.

What it means: Buckle your seatbelt, please.

11. Airbag Indicator

Car dashboard's airbag indicator
iStock

What it looks like: A man wearing a tie, shaking his fist at you as he falls down. Why did you push him?

What it means: There may be an issue with one or more of your car's airbags, or the airbag system in general.

12. Fog Lamp Indicator

Car dashboard's fog indicator
iStock

What it looks like: A jellyfish leaping through a waterfall.

What it means: Your fog lights are on.

13. Security Light

Car dashboard's security light
iStock

What it looks like: They put a boot on your car and your car is also covered in icicles. This has been the worst winter ever.

What it means: You may need a key with the proper transponder in order to trigger the ignition. Or, there is something else wrong with your car's anti-theft system.

14. Traction Control Malfunction

Car dashboard's traction control malfunction
iStock

What it looks like: Pyramid on the dollar bill ... or is that what the Illuminati wants you to think it looks like?

What it means: There is an issue with your anti-skid system, and it may be shut off completely.

15. Washer Fluid Indicator

Car dashboard's washer fluid indicator
iStock

What it looks like: A conductor's point of view, tapping her music stand and preparing to lead an orchestra consisting of two candy canes that are stuck together.

What it means: The washer fluid level is low. Please fill that up when you get a chance.

10 Items Under $25 That Will Keep You Warm This Winter

KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon
KEAZA/Yeti/Amazon

If you're someone who finds the freezing temperatures of winter unbearable, even the shortest stints outside can seem like pure torture. But you don't need to spend the next few months dreading every moment you're in your drafty office or outdoors. We looked through Amazon and found plenty of products, ranging from heated scarves to insulated coffee mugs, that will keep you warm without breaking the bank. Check out some of our favorite finds for under $25.

1. Refillable Zippo Hand Warmers; $20

A refillable zippo hand warmer
Zippo/Amazon

There is a long list of unpleasantries that comes along with winter, and being unable to keep your hands warm is definitely near the top of that list. But thankfully, there are these refillable, flameless Zippo hand warmers, which can last for up to 12 hours. All you need to do is remove the burner, add the lighter fluid (which is available on Amazon for $10), place the burner back on, apply a flame, and enjoy the comfort of having warm hands again.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Heated Scarf; $18

A heated scarf
PerfectPrime/Amazon

We have heated gloves, hand warmers, and even heated socks. But what about when your neck gets cold? Enter PerfectPrime’s electric scarf, which comes with two heaters that allow you to swap between low or high heat. All you need to do is hook one of the heaters up to the included USB cord; place both in the inset of the scarf; attach the cord to the power pack, which sits in a small pouch; and enjoy the added warmth. (The power pack isn't included but you can pick one up on Amazon for $27). And when it comes time, the heaters can be removed and the scarf can be thrown in the washer for an easy clean.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mug Warmer; $23

Mug warmer
Vobaga/Amazon

It's hard to stay warm in your home or office when that perfect cup of coffee you just poured yourself goes cold after just a few minutes on your desk. This mug warmer can help prevent that by keeping your drink nice and hot, even if you're away from it for over an hour. Simply hit the “tempering” button to choose your ideal temperature of 104℉, 131℉, or 149℉, and rest your mug on top. And if your distractions take you away for too long, there’s no need to worry as the warmer will shut off after four hours.

Buy it: Amazon

4. USB Hand warmers; $20

hand warmers
Eaterhom/Amazon

If you work in a cold office, forcing yourself to type with freezing hands can seem nearly impossible. But now, you can ensure your hands stay nice and toasty with these super adorable toast hand warmers. Fingerless and with adjustable wrist straps, these plush gloves are one size fits all and perfectly whimsical. All you need to do is slip them on, hook them up to the USB drive on your computer, and enjoy the extra dexterity.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Viking Horns and Beard Beanie; $19

A viking hat
Kafeimali/Amazon

If you're going to be out in the cold, this hand-knit Acrylic beanie, complete with Viking horns and beard, is perfect for bringing a little levity to the bitterness outside. Not only will this winter accessory be a great conversation starter, but the beard and cap will ensure your face and head stay plenty warm. If you aren’t quite feeling the beard—though we really have no idea why you wouldn’t—it’s removable. You can find this beanie in brown, black, and two shades of gray.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Heated mouse; $23

A heated mouse from ValueRays at Amazon.
ValueRays/Amazon

If you don't want to completely cover your hands while working in a chilly office, this heated mouse may be your best bet. It plugs right into your computer through a USB cord and will heat up to 99°F-120°F, allowing you to choose the right level of warmth while avoiding the inevitable sweaty palms that come with wearing gloves indoors. Just remember, this is a mouse designed for work or school—basically anything more casual. If you’re looking to keep warm while doing more precise work (like design work or gaming), check out this heated mouse pad for $33.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Yeti Insulated Mug; $25

An insulated coffee mug from Yeti.
Yeti/Amazon

Pouring yourself a warm drink is the easy part—it’s keeping it warm that gets tricky. And no one wants to rush through their hot coffee or tea just so it doesn’t cool down too fast (think about your poor tongue!). With this insulated mug from Yeti, you can keep your drink warmer for longer, allowing you to sip at your own speed. Yeti is a company known for durability, so this 14-ounce mug is perfect whether you're taking it to the office or on a long hike or camping trip. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Hogwarts Scarf; $20

A Hogwarts Harry Potter scarf from Cinereplicas.
Cinereplicas/Amazon

This officially licensed Harry Potter Hogwarts scarf from Cinereplicas is about as authentic to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world as you’ll get without an owl delivering you an acceptance letter. The scarf is so faithful to the color scheme from the films that it even uses the same Pantone shades as seen on the screen. The comfy knit feel will keep you warm in the winter, and the movie-accurate design will help it double as part of a costume come Halloween time. For a few dollars more, you can buy scarves based on Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.

Buy it: Amazon

9. These Incredibly Warm Socks; $13

Vintage socks from KEAZA sold on Amazon.
KEAZA/Amazon

If you’re working from home—or just taking part in some world-class hygge—you need these incredibly cozy, incredibly versatile socks. You can wear them to sleep on a cold night, keep them on all day like slippers, or wear them with shoes during those early-morning commutes as the thermometers plummet. Best of all, while they’re warm, they’re not suffocating. They’re soft, with enough breathability to prevent your feet from overheating.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Touchscreen gloves; $7-$12

Touchscreen gloves from Amazon.
Achiou/Amazon

Not even the bitter cold should keep you from your Instagram scrolling, and with these touchscreen gloves, you can keep your digits warm without having to sacrifice your social media time. These gloves were made specifically with phones and other gadgets in mind, so while they’re ready to keep you comfortable in winter weather, the material allows you to use your device without worrying that your fingers won’t register on the screen. Plus, the silicone on the gloves will help prevent your phone from slipping from your grip.

Buy it: Amazon

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Scam Alert: A FedEx Tracking Notification Text Wants to Steal Your Credit Card Number

interstid/iStock via Getty Images
interstid/iStock via Getty Images

Thanks to moment-by-moment tracking software offered by delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office, consumers can keep tabs on their packages before they're even delivered. We’ve grown so accustomed to getting notification texts that it might be easy to let a bogus one slip by.

According to How-To Geek, that could prove to be an expensive mistake. The site is reporting that a scam currently making the rounds involves a fraudulent text notification of an impending FedEx package. The message is prompting recipients to “set delivery preferences” for the delivery. When smartphone users click on the link in the message, they’re directed to what looks like an Amazon satisfaction survey. After completing the survey, users are offered a free gift and then asked to remit their credit card information to pay $6.99 for shipping. This also triggers a monthly subscription charge of $98.95.

Due to the deluge of solicitations for customer surveys prompted by businesses, this is a clever bit of misdirection. Needless to say, it’s also not a legitimate offer. Amazon is unlikely to ever route you to a new URL for a “free gift.” If you’re unsure whether you have a package on the way, it’s a good idea to navigate directly to the FedEx or shipper website to check. It’s also best to block the incoming number to opt out of any future texts offering to separate you from your money.

[h/t How-To Geek]

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