Volkswagen dashboard warning lights – what they mean

Whether you’re driving a VW Golf, Passat, Polo, or another model, the warning lights on your dashboard follow a traffic light colour system:

  • Green: the system is working correctly or is currently in use
  • Yellow: something is not working correctly — take extra care and check it out as soon as possible
  • Red: there is a serious, and potentially dangerous problem — stop driving as soon as it is safe to do so

Click a warning light to learn more:

Modern Volkswagen cars are filled with lots of sensors that monitor how each system in the car is behaving. The lights on the dashboard display what systems are in use and they also highlight when one of those systems is not working as it should.

Not sure what that yellow flashing symbol on your VW dashboard means? Read our guide to find out what each Volkswagen warning light means, why they come on, how urgent the problem is and what you should do when you see them.

VW brake system warning light

If this red light remains on after you fully release the parking brake, or comes on when you’re driving, it could indicate that either the brake fluid level is low or that the Automatic Braking system isn’t working properly – in which case the ABS warning light will also be illuminated.

Can I drive with my brake system warning light on?

You shouldn’t risk it. The brakes are one of the most important safety features of your car, so it’s important to act immediately when you see this red warning light.

If the red brake warning light comes on when you’re driving you should pull over and stop as soon as it’s safe to do so. Unless you know how to check your brake fluid levels yourself, this will be one for the professionals, so get yourself to a garage.

Don’t risk driving when your brakes aren’t functioning properly: call for recovery.

If you need assistance you can call the RAC on 03301 598 751 whether you are a member or not.

VW check engine warning light

On VW cars, this is called the Emissions Control or Engine Management Lamp, but you’ll probably know it as the check engine light.

When the check engine warning light is illuminated it’s often accompanied by tell-tale signs that the engine is not working properly, such as a lack of power or stuttering as you press the accelerator. This light could indicate a number of faults, from minor issues like a broken electrical sensor to a much larger mechanical issue.

Can I drive with my check engine light on?

If the check engine light comes on you should get your car looked at by a mechanic. By continuing to drive you could risk causing further, potentially irreparable damage to your engine.

VW electronic power control (EPC) warning

EPC is a computerised ignition and engine management system. This warning light — called the Petrol Engine Management Lamp on VW cars — usually signifies that there’s something wrong with the throttle system, and is often accompanied by other warning lights such as the check engine light or the stability control warning light.

You’ll probably notice that the engine is not functioning properly, and the car may feel sluggish to drive as the computer may automatically put the car into a ‘safe’ mode.

Can I drive with my EPC light on?

If the EPC light comes on you should still be safe to drive but you should proceed to get it checked out straight away to prevent further damage, as the severity of the problem could vary greatly.

VW power steering system warning light

Also known as the EPAS (electric power-assisted steering) warning light, this indicates a problem with the power steering.

Can I still drive with my power steering light on?

If the power steering system fails you will notice that the car is harder to manoeuvre and you should take extra care – it could be dangerous to drive at high motorway speeds without power steering assistance.

For electric powered systems, this problem could be as simple to fix as rebooting a computer. Find a safe place to stop and try turning the car off and back on again. If the light stays on you should take your car to get checked as soon as possible.

VW steering lock warning light

The steering lock is an anti-theft device that prevents anyone who doesn’t have the keys from driving the car, by effectively locking the steering wheel in position if someone tries to move the wheel when the ignition is off.

Can I still drive with my steering lock light on?

A yellow warning light signifies that there’s a fault with the system that you should get checked out as soon as possible. If the light goes red while you are driving, you need to stop immediately and carefully, and call for roadside assistance, as the steering wheel could potentially lock into position and cause a potentially life-threatening situation.

If you need assistance you can call the RAC on 03301 598 751 whether you are a member or not.

VW diesel particulate filter (DPF) warning light

This light will come on if there is a problem the with diesel particulate filter, which removes harmful soot from the exhaust gases to reduce emissions. It could indicate that the filter has become blocked with soot.

Can I still drive with my DPF light on?

As well as releasing a plume of toxic black smoke every time you press the accelerator, driving with a blocked filter could cause more serious damage to your car. You should go to a garage to get it checked as soon as you can, as DPFs can be expensive to replace.

VW engine cooling system warning light

This light will come on when coolant levels are running low and the engine is overheating. This could be due to a leak in the system or it could be a sign of a larger problem, like a head gasket failure.

Can I still drive with my engine cooling system light on?

If this light is red you should stop straight away, as without enough coolant your engine could get so hot that it effectively welds itself together, causing irreparable damage.

Stop and wait until the engine has cooled off before checking the gauge on the side of the coolant tank under the bonnet, topping up as required. Read our guide to checking your engine coolant.

While you’re under the hood, have a look to see if there are any obvious leaks. If you can’t see any and the light goes off after topping up then you should be fine to continue your journey. If the light comes back on again after topping up you should get it checked out at a garage to fix the underlying problem.

VW engine oil pressure warning light

The yellow oil warning light comes on when either the oil temperature gets too high or the oil level or pressure is too low. If the oil is not lubricating the engine effectively it could lead to expensive or even irreparable engine damage, so it’s important to act quickly.

Can I still drive with my engine oil pressure light on?

When this light comes on you should stop as soon as possible and turn off the engine. Have a look for any obvious oil leaks under the car, and then check the oil levels, topping up if necessary. If the oil levels are fine, then the oil pump may be faulty. In this case call the RAC for recovery, as driving any further could damage the engine.

VW tyre pressure monitoring warning light

Many VW cars are now fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems that will let you know when the pressure falls. This could happen over time or it could be because of a puncture.

Can I still drive with my tyre pressure monitoring light on?

Yes, but you should drive with extra care and aim to top up with air at the next opportunity. Low tyre pressure can cause unsafe driving conditions so reduce your speed, and try to avoid braking suddenly or making any violent steering manoeuvres.

Most petrol stations and garages will have an air compressor you can use to check your tyre pressure. Top up the air in the tyres according to the vehicle manufacturer specification in your owner’s manual.

If you have a puncture, watch our video to learn how to change a tyre in 10 simple steps.

VW air suspension warning light

If this warning light comes on you’ll probably notice that your VW car feels harder to handle, less stable, and it may be lower to the ground than normal. It could signal a leak in one of the inflatable bags that sit above the wheels and cushions your ride, or it could indicate a problem with the air compressor.

Can I still drive with my air suspension light on?

The severity of the problem will impact on your ability to drive safely. If the handling is poor you should stop as soon as it is safe to do so and call for roadside assistance.

Even if the handling is not adversely affected, without suspension the impact of any bumps or knocks will be transferred to the body of the car, and may cause considerable damage, so drive carefully to a garage to get it checked out as soon as you can.

VW vehicle charging system warning light

If this light comes on in your VW when you’re driving it indicates that the battery is not charging. This could be due to a problem with your car’s electrical system and it could have several causes, such as a faulty alternator, faulty battery, bad electrical connection or damaged cabling.

Can I still drive with my vehicle charging light on?

Your car will run as normal until the battery is dead but once it is drained nothing in your car will work – so get to a garage quickly before you run out of juice!

VW ignition switch warning light

This light warns you about a malfunction in the ignition system that allows you to turn the engine on and off. Usually it indicates a mechanical fault but it could even be dirt stuck in the ignition switch that is stopping the key from turning.

Can I still drive with my ignition switch lock light on?

If this light goes yellow you should go to get the ignition switch examined as soon as possible to find out the cause. If it goes red, then drive immediately to a garage, as once you turn off the ignition, you may not be able to turn the car back on again.

VW anti-lock braking system (ABS) warning light

ABS is an important safety feature that really comes into play when you need to make an abrupt stop, or when driving in difficult driving conditions like ice and flooding.

Can I still drive with my ABS light on?

If the ABS light comes on by itself you should still have normal, unassisted braking, so it’s safe to continue your journey – but keep your distance, take extra care, and get it checked as soon as possible. If it comes on with the brake warning light, it could indicate that the brake system is failing and you should stop straight away and call the RAC for recovery.

VW ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) warning light

This warning light indicates a problem with traction control. If it’s flashing it means the ESP system is intervening – for example, if you’re driving on a slippery road. If the light stays on it means the ESP system is deactivated.

Can I still drive with my EPS light on?

Since this system only kicks in when you’re losing traction on loose ground or ice, you should be okay to drive with due care if you’re on normal road surfaces.

You may have inadvertently turned off the ESP system. To check, try stopping and restarting the engine. If the light remains on after restarting get it checked at a garage as the ESP system is an important safety feature.

VW recharge AdBlue® warning light

Adblue® is a type of diesel exhaust fluid. If this light turns yellow in your diesel VW it means the diesel exhaust fluid level is low, which will eventually prevent your engine from starting.

Can I still drive with my AdBlue® light on?

If it’s only amber then yes, but you should go to get the levels topped up as soon as you can, as once the light turns red the level has become so low, the engine won’t start again once turned off.

VW automatic gearbox warning light

This warning light may indicate a fault with your VWs transmission – often that the transmission fluid temperature is higher than normal – or it could serve as a reminder that your transmission fluid levels are getting low and need to be topped up.

Can I still drive with my gearbox light on?

Continuing to drive could cause more extensive damage and automatic transmissions can be expensive to replace. If you have the skills and confidence, you could check and top up the transmission fluid yourself but it’s wise to get any problems checked by a professional.

VW brake lights warning light

This light will come on if one or more of your brake lights has burned out.

Can I still drive with my brake lights warning light on?

You’ll need to get this replaced as soon as you can, not least because they’re an important safety feature but also because if you continue driving with a brake light out you may get pulled over the police. If this happens they could either give you a verbal warning, a notice to get the light fixed within 14 days, or even a fine and points on your licence.

VW brake pad monitoring warning light

If this light comes it means that a sensor has detected that your brake pads are too thin. This warning light should come on before the brake pads become dangerously thin, so you have time to get them changed.

Can I still drive with my brake pad light on?

No, if your brake pads wear out completely it could be extremely dangerous. You should get them replaced as soon as you can — get your motor booked in with your nearest garage.

VW glow plus engine management warning light

This light will normally turn on when your engine is warming up, however if it’s flashing this indicates that it’s not working properly and the glow plugs may need replacing.

Can I still drive with my glow plus light on?

No, you could damage the engine so get it checked by a professional as soon as possible. A fault with the glow plugs may put the engine into safe mode to prevent any damage to the engine so you may experience a noticeable drop in performance until the problem is fixed.

VW front assist warning light

Modern VW cars may have a front assist system that monitors the traffic in front of your car, measuring the distance and relative speed of the vehicles ahead, to warn you if you get too close. It even prepares the brakes for emergency braking if it senses that you’re in danger of collision.

Can I still drive with my front assist light on?

If the front assist warning light is yellow, this means that the system is not working properly, and you should drive with extra care and take your car for a service to get it fixed. This light will go red when it detects a risk of collision, and you need to take evasive action or brake to avoid a crash.

VW adaptive cruise control warning light

When engaged, Cruise Control automatically keeps your car moving at a speed chosen by you. The Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) function will also allow you to choose a safe distance from the cars ahead. This system will automatically apply the brakes and warn you if the gap gets tight.

Can I still drive with my adaptive cruise control light on?

If the ACC light goes yellow it means the system is not working properly. Try stopping and restarting the engine to see if it clear the light. You could also check for ice or dirt that may be blocking the sensors. If the light stays on you’ll be fine to keep driving without ACC but you should take your car in for a service when you can to get it fixed.

VW rear spoiler warning light

When your car speeds up, it starts to generate lift. The rear spoiler creates downward force to counteract the lift, keeping your car firmly on the ground. Your VW may have an adjustable spoiler that can be raised when driving at high speeds, such as on the motorway, or lowered for a cleaner look when it’s not needed.

Can I still drive with my rear spoiler light on?

The yellow warning light will come on if the spoiler system is malfunctioning — perhaps due to a faulty fuse or connection. In this case the spolier system will have been deactivated to prevent further damage. If this happens you need to keep your speed down to a maximum of around 70mph and book your car in for a service to determine the problem.

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