seems like every new car comes with more warning lights on the
dashboard than any models that arrived previously. And I’m wondering…
you asked most people about why the lights are there, and used
those responses without investigation, you’d probably believe
the argument for their existence is pretty sound. After all, indicators
that tell you when something is wrong seem like a fairly positive
thing. And I believe that almost all of us, if asked to summarize
those dashboard announcements, would arrive at something that
covers them delivering a message that there is a problem.
trouble is… well… the trouble. Or more precisely, the lack thereof.
I was driving my car and the maintenance required light came on.
don’t think I’m alone in saying that when a warning light of some
type suddenly appears on the dashboard of my operating vehicle,
I want to take it seriously. I want to immediately check my mirrors,
bring together a checklist of actions and movements that bring
me and the vehicle across the lanes to the side of the road and
guide myself to safety without endangering others.
every time those lights appear, it never seems like any come on
for a massive issue that justifies “get over to the side of the
road and shut the car down NOW” actions. Instead, like my maintenance
required light (which I did have checked as quickly as possible),
much more often than not they tend to be a reminder, such as when
an oil change is due.
me for drifting into such thoughts… but I often find myself thinking
that a really helpful light would be one that comes on before
the transmission craps out. Or something that indicates the oil
pump is on the edge of kaputting. You know, bringing to my attention
an issue where a few hundred dollars of repairs might be necessary,
but if I do get to the side of the road, turn the car off, and
call triple-a for a tow, that light probably saved me thousands.
lights don’t seem to exist though.
we can pause for a moment here since a few are raising hands and
getting ready to interject something about lights for oil pressure
and batteries. My response? Good for you. But, one of the funny
foundations of my headaches is based on how the more lights we
get on the dashboard, the less important the reason is that they
pressure and batteries have been part of dashboard light design
for quite some time. Temperature gauges too. Oil and battery issues
can ruin your afternoon. I agree with you. But… those lovely check
engine lights come on when gas cap is loose.
yes… I’m simplifying in an attempt at humor. A check engine light
can mean something more severe than gas caps and oil changes and
oxygen sensors and so on. The problem is, depending on the car
you’re driving, the light might be yellow, could be a picture
of an engine, might be blinking, and… are you seeing the difficulty
here? We’re back to as soon as the light comes on, pull over,
check the car’s manual or grab your smartphone and begin a new
search. Because between tire pressure, traction control, anti-lock
brake systems, maintenance required, check engine, pictures of
engines… the list goes on… there are a lot of pictures, words
and letters to be prepared for.
yup, you knew this… there’s a massive gap in severity (and repair
costs) that fall between a loose gas cap and a seriously misfiring
complaint isn’t with the existence of the light… isn’t with the
concept of warning drivers (and owners) of problems both large
and small… isn’t with offering me feedback on multiple issues.
I like the idea of identifying problems, storing information,
and looking for ways to catch things early. And I am not going
to ask you to remove a light that can tell me something might
need a bit of research or troubleshooting.
my complaint is the all-in-one approach they take in delivering
the news. And if you’re not sure what I mean, then please tell
me what car you’re driving that has a “stop driving now” light
for the serious issues.
of this for me is how often the problem isn’t a problem, but rather
the system that is supposedly identifying the problem. I’ve had
the tire pressure lights come on before… but never because the
tire pressure was low. Instead, the tire pressure sensor was broken.
Every time it’s happened.
here’s to the dashboard and the warning lights on them. I’m grateful
for the help. If you don’t mind though, would you get in the back
seat with the other well-meaning though no less annoying advice