You’ve probably noticed a little triangle with an exclamation point if you’ve checked your car’s dashboard lately. What is it? How do you fix it?
There’s a simple explanation when a triangle with an exclamation point lights up on your dashboard. In Honda cars, it usually means there’s a possible issue with their Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. This system aims to assist in keeping the car stable during cornering and maintaining traction on slippery roads.
Read on to learn more about the triangle with the exclamation point symbol, including what it means in different cars and what you should do if it comes on in your car.
What Is the Triangle with Exclamation Point?
Master Warning Light
That triangle with an exclamation point inside has a name—master warning light. It doesn’t light up alone. One or more warning lights usually accompany it to tell you that they’ve detected issues with the car, including:
- Low fuel level,
- A loose fuel cap, and
- Stability control issues.
Red Triangle with Exclamation Point
If the master warning light is red, it could mean there’s a serious issue with your car’s systems, such as low oil pressure. Or, it could be a simple reminder to change your oil. Always check the text displayed on your instrument panel and other warning light(s) when this light is on.
Yellow or Amber Triangle with Exclamation Point
Manufacturers in Asia and Europe use the amber or yellow master warning light in two ways. They use it to tell you that there’s a problem with your car’s Stability Control System, including the slip indicator.
They use it to tell you that a text warning is available in your car’s Information Display.
Note: The best source of information about the master warning light is your owner’s manual. Read it and become familiar with the car’s operation, including its various warning lights.
What Does Triangle with Exclamation Point Mean in Popular Car Brands
With that said, let’s find out what this symbol means in some popular car brands:
Warning Light for Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) System
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the triangle with an exclamation point in the middle serves as a warning light for Honda’s Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) system. The VSA system will usually activate when driving under dangerous conditions, such as a loose or slippery road surface.
What to Do
If the master warning light of your Honda car turns on, here’s what you need to do:
- Pullover on the side of the road.
- Turn off the engine and then restart it to reboot the VSA system.
- Observe your dashboard. If the master warning light doesn’t turn off while driving, bring your car to the nearest Honda-certified automotive shop to get it checked by qualified technicians.
Reminder to Refuel ASAP
The meaning of the master warning light will slightly differ for every Nissan car model. For the Nissan Altima, it serves as a reminder for you to refuel as soon as possible.
For the Nissan Qashqai, it illuminates whenever there’s a warning in the message center. If the warning light is red and flashing, this would need your instant attention.
Nissan Car’s Master Warning Light Triggers
Some of the possible issues that could trigger the master warning light in Nissan cars are:
- Low fuel
- Loose fuel cap
- Tire pressure too low
- An improperly closed door or trunk
- Windshield washer fluid is low
- The emergency brake or parking brake is engaged
- “No Key Detected” – This warning may appear for many reasons: the battery is low or dead, your car can’t detect the Intelligent Key™ when you press the start button, your key lost its coding, you’re using the wrong key, or your key is left outside your car.
Buzzing Sound with Flashing Master Warning Light
The master warning light in Toyota cars appears as a red exclamation point inside a triangle. Along with this symbol, you might also hear a buzzing sound and see the light flashing to indicate that the master warning system was able to detect a malfunction in your car.
Low Oil Pressure
On a Toyota Sienna, this warning light could be red or yellow. It’ll only turn on when the engine control unit (ECU) detects that your engine has low oil pressure. The ECU is a small, software-controlled device that tells several electrical systems what to do and how in a Toyota car.
Read the Message in the Multi-function Display
When you see this symbol, read the message in the multi-function display at the earliest safe opportunity. This will tell you exactly what issue your car system detected (e.g., low brake fluid level and tire pressure monitoring system malfunction).
Have a Toyota-certified Technician Check the Car
If this warning light appears on your dashboard, you’ll most likely need to have it checked by a Toyota-certified technician.
The master warning light usually comes on for Hyundai cars when the Blind Spot Detection and Tire Pressure Monitoring need attention:
Blind Spot Detection
This technology is available in these Hyundai models:
- Santa Fe, and
As the name suggests, it serves as your extra pair of eyes, so you’ll know if there are other vehicles in your path.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
This technology will tell you when any of your tires have low pressure.
The little triangle with an exclamation point symbol is the generic default master warning light of the Fiat 500. Depending on the Fiat 500 model, a message might also appear along this warning light.
Causes of Illuminated Fiat Master Warning Light
The following issues might cause this generic warning symbol to illuminate:
- Exceeded speed limit
- Activated fuel cut-off system: Aside from switching off the fuel supply to the engine in an impact, this system also unlocks the doors, deactivates the climate control ventilation system, activates the hazard warning lights, and switches on the internal lights.
- Water in the diesel filter: This can cause various problems, such as the formation of rust in iron and steel components.
- Faulty Methane Level Sensor
- Problem with the City Brake Control: This helps you avoid a low-speed crash.
- Improperly Working Rain Sensor: This automatically activates the windshield wipers.
This symbol doesn’t provide much information on its own. It usually illuminates and flashes simultaneously with one or more warning lights. You could also hear buzzing sounds when it comes on. The primary purpose of this symbol is to tell you that it has detected a malfunction.
Unsurprisingly, Kia’s master warning light is usually accompanied by another warning light. It comes off to alert you if any of the following happens:
- The car is running low on fluids.
- Low washer fluid
- Incoming vehicle or object in your blind spot
- Low tire pressure
- Emission control system issue
- Not Working “Assist Emergency Braking” (AEB)
Like with most car brands, the function of a master warning light is to tell you if there are malfunctioning systems in your Mazda car.
Issues with Brake Switch or Battery Management System
In some Mazda cars, this could be a problem with the brake switch or the battery management system (i.e., there’s a drop in voltage due to a faulty charging system).
What to Do
- Check the display screen to find the message that tells you what the problem is.
- Regardless of the red light is solid or flashing, it’s essential to check it immediately because your safety is at risk.
- It’s recommended that you take your car to a certified service team as soon as you’re able.
The master warning light is a red triangle with an exclamation mark on an INFINITI car dashboard. It’s also used to notify you of any potential problem with your car’s advanced systems. You can find detailed information about the cause of the problem by reading your car’s information display.
Again, what does the triangle with an exclamation point mean? When you see the triangle with an exclamation flashing on your Honda vehicle dashboard, you have a faulty Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA®) system. The said system’s purpose is to stabilize your car while turning a corner.
Triangle with Exclamation Point: How to Fix It?
Now you know what that little triangle with an exclamation point means, you might be thinking about the following questions:
- What should you do next if this warning light appears on your dashboard?
- Can you drive with the master warning light on?
- Should you reset the master warning light and other dashboard warning lights?
When the master warning light comes on in your car, don’t ignore it. Brushing it off could compromise your safety on roads. Also, it can lead to serious car problems and expensive repairs.
Instead, look for a safe spot to pull over and check the accompanying warning light to help you decide on the appropriate steps. Read your owner’s manual if you don’t know what the master warning light (and each dashboard warning light) means for your car.
Seek Professional Help
The causes of the master warning light range in its level of importance and severity. Some of them are not urgent and relatively simple to fix.
If a serious dashboard warning light accompanies it, or if you’re having a hard time finding out why it’s on, it’s a good idea to have a certified mechanic or authorized service center check your car.
Does it matter where you get your car serviced? Which is better, a local mechanic or an authorized service center?
Go to Authorized Service Center If You Have an Active Warranty
If the warranty is still active, it’s good to bring your car to the nearest authorized service center.
The popular belief is that authorized service centers are costly, which is true since they have bigger facilities, you also get quality work, and they use original parts.
Authorized service centers usually have mechanics who are knowledgeable about the advanced systems in a car.
Go to a Trusted Local Mechanic to Save Money
If the issue doesn’t require complex repairs or replacements, going to a trusted local mechanic could save you money. However, make sure you look for the most trusted and experienced mechanic in your area.
While an engine code reader/scanner is available, it’s not good to use it to reset persistent master warning lights or dashboard warning lights. It’s only going to treat the symptoms, not the underlying cause.
These warning lights are there for a reason—to detect mild to catastrophic issues with your car. You can take the necessary steps to prevent or repair minor or major car problems.
Other Dashboard Warning Lights
Apart from that little triangle with an exclamation point symbol, there are around 64 warning lights. Don’t worry. You don’t have to memorize all of them.
You need to understand those that are already on your car dashboard. It’s also important to regularly watch them ensure they don’t reach a critical level.
In most cars, like Toyota and Lexus cars, these are some of the primary dashboard warning lights that might accompany the master warning light:
- Tire-pressure warning light
- Oil pressure warning light
- Traction control warning light
- Temperature warning light
- ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) warning light
- Check engine warning light
- Seat belt reminder indicator
- Battery warning light
- ESC (Electronic Stability Control) indicator
- Airbag warning light
These three are considered the most serious warning lights out of all the dashboard warning lights. So, never ignore them:
1. Oil Pressure Warning Light
The oil pressure warning light doesn’t light up often. But when it does, you should stop driving right away.
This warning light, which looks like a genie’s lamp, will tell you if the pressure level or oil is too low. If the pressure is low, the oil can’t travel through narrow passages to keep them lubricated. If there’s not enough oil or lubricant, it can cause the engine to malfunction or become permanently damaged.
- Insufficient or old and worn oil
- Wear in engine
- Malfunctioning oil pressure gauge
- Dirty or clogged air filter
- Overheated engine
- High oil viscosity
What to Do
- Stop your car, then turn off the engine.
- Check the oil level on an even surface to get an accurate reading.
- To prevent the oil pressure warning light from illuminating in the first place, make sure your car gets regular maintenance, especially regular oil changes.
2. Temperature Warning Light
The temperature warning light usually looks like a thermometer with two wavy lines underneath. In some cars, it’s represented by the word ‘TEMP’ or ‘ENGINE OVERHEATING.’
It comes off when your car’s engine is overheating. This shouldn’t be a problem if your car’s cooling system is working.
Engine Overheating Causes
There are plenty of reasons why an engine overheats, such as:
- Hose blockage due to mineral deposits or corrosion
- Damaged water pumps
- Problems with the radiator
- Cooling system leaks
What to Do
- It’s essential to check your car’s coolant and radiator regularly. If the temperature warning light goes off, immediately pull over to a safe spot.
- Wait for at least 20 to 30 minutes before starting your car’s engine.
- Bring your car to the nearest authorized service center if the temperature warning light still comes on.
3. Check Engine Light
The check engine light comes in amber, orange, or yellow. When it illuminates, it can flash or stay illuminated, depending on the problem that it has detected.
Check Engine Light Causes
Some of the possible reasons for the check engine light to come on:
- Dirty or malfunctioning mass airflow sensor (a key component of the electronic fuel injection system)
- Loose or defective gas cap
- Problems with the catalytic converter (changes the engine’s harmful emissions into safe gases)
- Worn or faulty spark plugs
Unlike the previous dashboard warning lights I’ve mentioned, the check engine light doesn’t usually require immediate attention. However, if the light is flashing, it usually indicates that it has detected a more severe problem.
What to Do
If it’s a solid check engine light, you can schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Stop the car and have it checked by a certified mechanic or authorized service center if it’s flashing.
Conclusion – Triangle with Exclamation Point
The triangle with an exclamation point symbol doesn’t mean anything except to tell you to check your car’s message center to know what’s causing it to come on. The root problem could be minor, but it could also mean a severe problem has occurred.
Either way, you should have your car checked by a local mechanic or authorized automotive shop as soon as possible to diagnose and fix the main issue. Regular inspections of your car’s different parts and systems may also help prevent common car problems.