Car Warning LightsElectric Car

A Tortoise and A Spanner?

Published: 06/20/2023


A handy Guide to the Dashboard warning lights on your Electric vehicle.


There are one or two EV specific dashboard lights that have electric vehicle drivers scratching their heads and wondering if they should pull over, call the garage, or drive on through.

No matter whether you drive EV, PHEV, or a Petrol/Diesel car many of your dashboard warning lights are the same. From tortoises to spanners and the more obvious plug symbol, the EV specific dashboard flashing lights are easy enough to navigate.

Here is our guide to those for battery powered vehicles.

Ireland loves driving electric. As a nation, we have purchased almost 50% more electric cars in the first half of 2023, when compared to the numbers bought in 2023. Most drivers find the transition to battery powered cars easy. In fact, most drivers embrace and enjoy going electric. However, there is that one area of confusion as every other day we get an enquiry or two about the electric specific warning lights popping up on the EV dashboard.

Colour Coded Symbols

As with many conventional engine warning lights, there is a colour coded system that immediately lets you know what level of panic should be adopted. I jest here! They are colour coded in terms of seriousness, but you should never panic.  At Peter Hanley Motors Ltd, we are only a phone call away and always ready to assist, so you can avoid panic at all times. If the lights are Green/Blue or Black, they are just information about the car and don’t really indicate warnings as such. They relay information  that the system is working correctly or is currently in use. Amber, Yellow or Orange symbols let you know that an issue is imminent. You can drive, but you need to give the vehicle some attention sooner rather than later. A red warning light is serious and indicates potentially dangerous problems. If a red light comes on while driving, pull over and seek assistance.


Vehicle Switched On

Starting an electric car is a pretty silent operation when compared to ICE vehicles. This light is simply there to inform the driver that the car is on. To confuse things, some car marques don’t use this car symbol but just say ‘Go’ or ‘Ready’. If this light does not come on, there could be an issue with the car.

Eco Mode Enabled

Eco driving was designed to help drivers get more miles from their batteries, as it adapts to your driving stye. Eco mode means slower acceleration which in turn means a lowered performance and enhanced efficiency.  Switching Eco driving off means nippier driving, but it will save on the charging costs of your car. Eco mode is a choice.  So, if this light pops on and you don’t want Eco drive, you probably pressed it by accident. 

Vehicle Plugged In

The plugged in symbol. Unsurprisingly, this indicates that you are still connected to a charging point. Not a serious warning as you cannot drive off while charging. The drivetrain will be disabled so you can start the car, but you won’t be going anywhere till you unplug. 

Limited Power Alert

It’s a bit of a mystery why manufacturers chose the poor tortoise as a symbol of the vehicle having limited power. I guess it means you will be going slowly till you fix the problem. This warning light may look cute, but the message is serious and indicates an issue, such as a low battery power, or a fault in the electrical system. Some car models explain a bit more about the issue on the display system, but most cars just illuminate this wee fellow and tell you to get into the garage for a diagnostic, to identify and deal with the issue as soon as possible.

Pedestrian Alert Fault

This light indicates a fault with the Pedestrian Alert system or external sound system that allows battery powered vehicle drivers warn pedestrian and other road users that they are nearby.

Battery Low

This is the recharge symbol. It is a sign that you need to recharge your EV. In most EVs you will get a warning at 12% and then a red warning and flashing light at 5% charge. This is an extra warning as you already have a power reserve indicator, that shows how much electricity is left and how many kilometres it will take you. Not every car uses this particular image. Some use a half empty battery symbol. In hybrid vehicles, there will be a similar ‘battery charge level’ warning light that will show that the electric part of the engine will need recharging.

General Electric Fault

This is a ‘General Fault’ sign. An exclamation mark over the car shows that there is a problem with the car’s electrical system, the batteries, the motor, or the wiring. If this warning light appears in amber, it is important to contact your mechanic and fix the problem.

Service Warning

The spanner is a ‘General Fault’ message. It can light up when the car needs a service, but you will get a screen message on the cars display if this is reason. It could also indicate a fault with the electrical systems, the pedal sensors, 12V battery or problems with the charging system. Seek professional advice.

Severe General Fault

This is the more serious version of the ‘General fault’ warning light. This red exclamation mark means there is a severe fault. It can be originating from signify a wide variety of problems and or can be accompanied by other warning lights. This fault requires urgent attention, and the car may shut down.

Battery Fault

Some car manufacturers use this symbol of a battery and exclamation mark to indicate a General Fault. Again, this is more serious if it is in red and less so when in amber.


High Engine Temperature

These symbols are used to show a high engine temperature in an electric vehicle. With a PHEV or EV this high temperature can be linked to the temperature of the battery pack. If the car’s cooling system fails, then the temperature of the battery can reach dangerous levels. This may cause engine failure or a fire. If this high temperature symbol lights up, you  should stop the car, preferably outside and seek immediate assistance.

Pedestrian Alert

A pedestrian alert message lighting up on the dashboard warns you of a pedestrian potentially in the way of the car. When driving electric it is essential to be aware that you are not making your presence known as easily as in a petrol or diesel car and be more vigilant to pedestrians.

The vehicle handbook will list all of the warning lights that are relevant to your particular vehicle and can be consulted if you are unsure of the meaning of any dashboard symbols. In the meantime, feel free to ask us any questions about safe and secure driving. 

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member of The Society of the Irish
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