Faults: Keep calm but don’t carry on

Posted on August 3rd, 2021 by Rob Marshall

Faults: Keep calm but don't carry on


Many people are at a loss when a dashboard warning light appears suddenly. To an extent, this is understandable, because the meaning of many symbols can be far from obvious. Even owner handbooks tend not to be very helpful. Yet, any dashboard warning should not be ignored and, should one appear, it is a good idea to stop the vehicle as soon as safely possible and seek assistance. Very often, disregarding the light and carrying on can cause damage to your car that might deem it uneconomical to repair.


Some drivers are beyond help. With her bonnet open and steam pouring out from beneath it, a colleague once asked me the meaning of a dashboard warning that stated “STOP”. She decided to continue and, while she arrived at her destination, her engine was destroyed. The car was dispatched to the scrapyard the following week but it could have been saved, had she stopped in a safe place and called for help.


More recently, a relative did stop his car on a hard shoulder and found that the auxiliary alternator belt had broken. As the engine appeared to be running satisfactorily, he decided to continue for a further 20 miles, instead of calling for assistance. Unfortunately, the remnants of the belt became entangled within the engine’s main timing belt. The car got him home but the engine detonated spectacularly just as he pulled onto his driveway. The parts invoice alone for a reconditioned engine totalled over £10,000, plus VAT.


Therefore, should your car warn you of a problem, stop as soon as it is safe and seek assistance. Your car and wallet will thank you for it.


Rob Marshall is GEM’s technical adviser and is a freelance automotive and technical journalist.