Check Gauge Light: Meaning, Causes, Fixe, Prevention

check gauge light

Have you ever been driving along and suddenly seen a “check gauge” or “check gauges” warning light pop up on your dashboard? This light is trying to tell you something important—and it’s not something you should ignore.

Seeing the check gauge light come on can be alarming, but don’t panic. This light simply indicates a potential issue with one or more of your vehicle’s gauges and corresponding systems. However, it could point to serious problems if not addressed promptly.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about that mysterious check gauge warning light. We’ll explore what it means, possible causes, how to diagnose problems, steps to fix issues causing it, and how to help prevent the light from coming on in the future.

What Does the Check Gauge Warning Light Mean?

what does the check gauge warning light mean

The check gauge light is designed to let you know there is a problem with one of the gauges on your vehicle’s dashboard.

Your car has several important gauges—including the speedometer, tachometer, temperature gauge, fuel gauge, battery gauge, oil pressure gauge, and tire pressure gauge. These gauges monitor critical systems and alert you to any issues.

For example, the temperature gauge tracks your engine’s temperature. The oil pressure gauge lets you know if oil levels are low. The fuel gauge indicates how much gas is left in the tank.

So when the “check gauge” or “check gauges” warning light comes on, it means one of these dashboard gauges is showing values outside the normal range. This could indicate:

  • Low oil or engine oil pressure
  • The engine overheating
  • Low tire pressure
  • A faulty sensor that monitors the gauges
  • Low fluid levels like coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, etc.

Essentially, this light is a signal that something is wrong with your vehicle and you need to check the gauges for any abnormalities.

What Are the Most Common Causes of the Check Gauge Light Coming On?

There are a few usual suspects that tend to trigger the check gauge warning light on your dashboard:

Low Oil or Oil Pressure

One of the most common reasons the check gauge light comes on is low oil pressure or low oil levels. This triggers the oil pressure gauge to show very low readings.

The oil pressure gauge indicates if your engine has sufficient oil to keep all its moving parts lubricated and prevent overheating. If oil gets too low, the gauge will dive, and you’ll see the check gauges light.

Low oil can be caused by an oil leak, oil burning, or simply forgetting to change your oil regularly. Driving with low oil can lead to catastrophic engine failure, so this requires immediate attention.

Engine Overheating

Another very common source of the check gauge warning is an overheated engine. This will show up on your temperature gauge.

The temperature gauge monitors coolant levels and flow to ensure your engine doesn’t get too hot. If the engine overheats, the check gauge light will come on along with high temp readings.

Reasons for overheating include low coolant, leaks, faulty thermostat or water pump, bad radiator fan, and more. Driving with an overheated motor risks major engine damage.

Low Tire Pressure

If your tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) detects low pressure in one of your tires, it will trigger the check gauge notification.

Underinflated tires lower gas mileage, cause uneven tread wear, and can lead to blowouts. Use a tire gauge to check the PSI in each tire and fill any underinflated tires to the proper air pressure.

Faulty Sensor

The various dashboard gauges rely on electronic sensors to monitor things like temperature, oil pressure, fuel volume, and tire PSI. If one of these sensors is damaged or malfunctioning, it can show inaccurate gauge readings that trigger the check gauge warning.

Replacing a bad sensor will require a trip to your mechanic. They can determine if a sensor is faulty and needs to be switched out.

Low Fluid Levels

Letting fluids like engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, or power steering fluid run low can also cause the check gauge light to come on.

Fluid levels can drop due to leaks or simply not being refilled often enough. Topping off fluids may make the light turn off, but have a mechanic inspect for any leaks. Running low on these vital fluids can lead to bigger breakdowns.

What Gauges Specifically Could Cause the Light to Turn On?

what gauges specifically could cause the light to turn on

While any gauge malfunction can trigger it, there are a few specific dashboard gauges and systems most prone to turning on the check gauge notification:

Oil Pressure Gauge

As mentioned, low oil pressure is one of the most common reasons you’ll see the check gauge light. Keep an eye on that oil pressure gauge for low readings around 15 PSI or under when idling. This likely means oil levels need to be topped off.

Temperature Gauge

Watch for the temperature gauge creeping into the red zone over 220°F, which indicates overheating. Pull over and shut off the engine immediately if it’s overheating to avoid engine damage.

Fuel Gauge

While not inherently dangerous, a faulty fuel sensor or gauge can cause inaccurate fuel level readings that prompt the check gauge light. A mechanic can confirm if the fuel gauge needs to be fixed or replaced.

Battery Gauge

The battery/voltmeter gauge can signal issues with the alternator charging system that will need diagnosis by a professional.

Tire Pressure Gauge

If the TPMS detects underinflated tires, it will trigger the check gauge notification. Use a tire pressure gauge to inspect each tire’s PSI.

In other words, an abnormal reading on any built-in gauge from fuel and batteries to tire pressure and brakes can potentially cause the check gauge light to come on.

What Should You Do When the Check Gauge Light Comes On?

what should you do when the check gauge light comes on

If you’re driving and the check gauge symbol or “check gauges” message pops up suddenly, don’t ignore it! Here are the recommended steps:

  • Don’t panic – The light itself doesn’t necessarily mean you have a major issue, but it does require prompt attention.
  • Check all gauges – Give every dashboard gauge a quick scan for abnormalities. Look for the common problems outlined earlier like low oil pressure, overheating, low tire pressure, etc.
  • Pull over if needed – If you spot anything of concern like very low oil pressure or the engine temperature nearing the red zone, pull over as soon as it is safe and shut off the engine immediately.
  • Check fluid levels – Pop the hood and inspect the oil, coolant/anti-freeze, brake fluid and other fluid levels. Top up any that are low.
  • Turn off AC temporarily – If the engine is overheating, shut off AC to help bring the temperature down.
  • Drive to a repair shop – Unless it’s an emergency scenario where you must call for a tow, drive carefully to an auto repair shop to have the codes scanned and underlying issue diagnosed by a professional technician.

The key is not to ignore that check gauge light, but also not to panic. Heed its warning and quickly inspect the dashboard gauges. Then take action like adding oil or coolant if needed before driving to a shop for repairs.

How to Fix Problems That Cause the Check Gauge Light to Come On

Once you’ve determined which gauge is showing problems, here are some common fixes for issues that trigger the check gauge light:

Add Oil If Oil Pressure Gauge Shows Low Readings

Low oil pressure is one of the most frequent triggers. If the oil pressure gauge is showing very low psi, add oil right away. Even a quart low can cause pressure issues. Top it off to keep the engine properly lubricated.

Add Coolant If Temperature Gauge Shows Overheating

Replenish coolant/anti-freeze to proper levels if you notice engine overheating issues. Adding coolant can help lower temperature and prevent overheating damage. Also have the cooling system inspected for leaks.

Replace Faulty Sensors

If a gauge sensor is malfunctioning or sending incorrect data, the sensor may just need to be replaced. Your mechanic can determine if an engine temperature sensor, oil pressure sensor, or other gauge sensors are causing erratic gauge readings.

Fix Any Leaks

Leaks in gaskets, hoses, seals, and housing can contribute to low fluid levels that affect gauges. Have your mechanic find any engine oil, coolant, transmission, brake fluid or power steering fluid leaks and repair them.

Inspect Belts, Pulleys, Thermostat

Faulty auxiliary belts, pulleys, water pump, or thermostat can lead to overheating issues that trigger the check gauge light. These should be examined and replaced if defective.

Replace Defective Gauge

If a dashboard gauge itself is giving false readings due to internal failure, the faulty gauge will need to be replaced. This restores accurate monitoring of that system.

Address Any Engine Issues

Serious engine problems like a blown head gasket can lead to overheating, oil burning, and low oil pressure. Have engine issues inspected and corrected to resolve any underlying problems triggering the warning light.

Steps to Help Prevent the Check Gauge Light From Coming On

You can help minimize seeing that pesky check gauge notification by:

  • Follow your car maintenance schedule – Stick to the recommended service intervals for oil changes, fluid checks, tire rotation, filters, belts, etc. Proper maintenance prevents many issues.
  • Check fluid levels regularly – Periodically pop the hood and inspect oil, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, power steering levels yourself to spot low fluid before it causes problems.
  • Look for leaks – Keep an eye out for leaks underneath your car. Fix minor leaks before they become major.
  • Change oil on time – Don’t exceed oil change intervals. Old oil loses its lubricating ability.
  • Check tire pressure often – Use a tire pressure gauge to inspect all tires frequently. Keep them inflated to the recommended PSI.
  • Have gauges tested – When having your car serviced, ask the mechanic to verify the dashboard gauges and sensors are functioning properly.
  • Address odd gauge readings – If you spot a gauge giving strange readings between service visits, don’t ignore it. Take action to prevent a bigger issue.
  • Tune up your vehicle – Replace oxygen sensors, spark plugs, wires, distributor caps, fuel and air filters per recommended intervals to help your car run optimally.

Regular proactive maintenance and gauge monitoring will go a long way towards avoiding most check gauge light scenarios. But also don’t fear the light—just have any problems inspected and corrected promptly.

When Is It OK to Drive With the Check Gauge Light On?

There are some limited scenarios where you can cautiously keep driving with the check gauge light illuminated:

  • If you checked all the gauges and fluid levels immediately and didn’t notice anything critically wrong or dangerous.
  • If topping off the oil, coolant or other fluids made the light turn off and your car seems to be running fine otherwise.
  • When driving directly to an auto repair shop after seeing the light. Just take extra caution.

However, you should NOT continue driving when:

  • The engine temperature is in the red zone and extremely overheated. Shut it off immediately or you’ll risk blowhead gasket, cracked cylinder heads, seize or warp engine components. Call for a tow if needed.
  • Oil pressure remains very low despite adding oil. Driving with low oil pressure risks destroying your engine bearings or rod journals and total failure. Have it towed to the shop.

If in doubt, it’s best to pull over or stop driving to be safe rather than risk thousands in engine repairs. Use your best judgement based on gauge readings.

Is the Check Gauge Light Something to Be Concerned About?

Seeing the check gauge symbol illuminate can range from a minor nuisance to a serious warning, depending on what system is malfunctioning. Here are general guidelines:

  • It is fairly low concern if it’s triggered simply because your gas gauge is reading less than empty when you still have some fuel left due to a faulty sending unit. Annoying but not dangerous.
  • It’s a moderate concern if the light is indicating low fluid levels, under-inflated tires, or faulty sensors. Not an emergency but needs prompt attention to avoid bigger problems.
  • It indicates a high, critical concern if the light is accompanied by very low oil pressure readings, engine overheating, or other signs of immediate engine damage. These require urgently stopping and seeking repair.

So use the severity of the accompanying gauge readings as your guide. The check gauge light itself is simply a messenger—look to its gauges for insight into whether it’s a minor issue or critical warning before proceeding.

Key Takeaways About the Check Gauge Warning Light

To sum up key points about deciphering that mysterious check gauge notification:

  • Don’t ignore the check gauge light when it turns on. It’s trying to alert you to a potential issue.
  • Scan all dashboard gauges closely for any abnormal readings. Identify which gauge is triggering the warning.
  • Low oil pressure, overheating, and low tire pressure are some of the most common culprits.
  • Add oil, coolant and air to tires if they are under-filled. This may resolve a minor low fluid warning.
  • Have vehicle inspected and repaired if lights stays on. A faulty sensor or gauge may need replacement.
  • Address leaks, engine issues, and follow maintenance schedules to help prevent the light coming on.
  • Use your best judgement on whether it’s safe to drive based on the accompanying gauge readings.

Following up right after seeing the check gauge light can help prevent small problems from cascading into major repairs. With attentiveness and quick action, you can keep your car running smoothly and limit check engine lights!

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