Kia warning lights – what they mean and what you need to do

Puzzled by the lights in your Picanto? Stumped by the symbols on your Stonic?

Let us help you decode your dashboard with the help of our handy guide.

  • 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

But what do all those different symbols mean? We’ve put together this guide to help you understand what the different yellow and red warning lights on your Kia dashboard mean, why they come on, how urgent the problem is and what you should do when you see them. 

4-wheel drive lock indicator

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Also known as a 4WD lock, a differential lock indicator or an axle lock indicator.

Kias with 4-wheel drive automatically lock the differential – the system designed to let wheels rotate at different speeds – to climb or descend hills and to handle poor driving surfaces. 

The light appears when the lock system is switched on and it can be switched off using the relevant button on your dashboard. 

Can I still drive with my 4-wheel drive lock indicator on?

Definitely. In fact, your car will have better traction on slippery or bumpy roads when the lock is activated.

If it doesn’t switch off after pressing the button you should visit a Kia centre or an RAC approved garage

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Immobiliser indicator warning light

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An immobiliser is a security device which stops a car from being started unless the correct digital key is in use. In a Kia, its warning light appears under different circumstances, depending on your car’s key system.

Without a smart key system:

The warning light appears when the immobiliser key is present and the engine is turned on before shortly disappearing. 

With a smart key system: 

The warning light will flash if the key isn’t present – an alert to let you know that the car can’t start.

If the battery is weak the light will illuminate but you should be able to start your car by pressing start/stop button directly with the key. 

It might flash at any time if there’s a problem with the smart key system

Can I still drive with my immobiliser indicator warning light on?

Although the warning light will appear when you start your engine, if it stays on there’s probably a fault with the immobiliser and you should visit an authorised Kia centre. 

You should also see a professional if you have a smart key system and the light flashes for two seconds when you start your engine.

The longer you ignore a faulty immobiliser, the longer you leave a car more vulnerable to hot wiring.

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Master warning light

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Kia’s master warning light looks like a cross between a hazard symbol and the handbrake sign. 

Unsurprisingly it can be used to highlight a number of faults on a car. The light will alert the driver if more than one of the following occurs:

  • low washer fluid
  • blind spot detection malfunction
  • autonomous emergency braking malfunction
  • low tyre pressure
  • lamp malfunction, and more

Can I still drive with my master warning light on?

It’s possible to drive with the master warning light turned on, but many of the problems it highlights are easily addressed without the help of a professional. 

It’s better to fix the problems as early as possible yourself and you should only need to visit a trusted garage if you’re unlucky.

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Engine oil level warning light

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This light only appears on diesels and will turn on when there isn’t enough oil in your car. 

You should pop the bonnet and check the oil level as soon as possible to prevent engine parts suffering from unnecessary wear and tear. Remember to use the oil recommended in your vehicle handbook and don’t overfill the tank.

If you’re unsure about how to check and/or top up your oil our video guide will walk you through the process.

Can I still drive with my engine oil level warning light on?

Although the light doesn’t indicate damage, ignoring the warning could lead to an expensive repair bill. Oil is used to lubricate parts of the engine and when levels are low, parts become more vulnerable to wear and tear.

The faster you act the more money you save. 

If the light remains on after you’ve topped up the oil level and been driving for 30-60 miles you should seek the help of a trusted garage

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Frost warning light

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This distinctive light tells the driver that there’s probably ice on the road. It turns on when temperatures hit the 4°C (39°F) mark or below and in colder weather it can change colour from amber to red.

It’s difficult to overlook as it typically flashes for 10 seconds and is usually accompanied by a warning alarm or chime. 

Driving on ice is often a challenge and fraught with risk. You should leave home with a charged mobile phone, a bottle of water, a few snacks and a warm blanket just in case.

Can I still drive with my frost warning light on?

When the frost warning light turns on you should ask yourself whether the journey is necessary.

If it is, you’ll need to pay extra attention to potential hazards and concentrate on delivering a smooth ride. 

Remember braking distances can increase tenfold on ice and you may need to use a higher gear than usual to improve your grip on the road.

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Fuel filter warning light

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The fuel filter light only appears on diesel vehicles and will turn on for three seconds when you turn on the ignition.

If it appears at any other time, water has probably collected inside the filter. You might notice your car misfiring, stalling or struggling to reach normal speeds.

If you break down completely, you should call RAC Breakdown Cover for help.

Can I still drive with my fuel filter warning light on?

Continuing to drive with the fuel filter warning light on could lead to damage to the fuel system and other engine parts. 
Water needs to be drained from the filter as soon as possible to protect your car and avoid a hefty repair bill. 

Your nearest RAC approved garage will be happy to help.

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Brake warning light

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Also known as the brake system warning light, parking brake warning light or brake fluid warning light.

If this red light remains on after you fully release the parking brake, or comes on when you’re driving, it may indicate that the brake fluid level is low. Unless you know how to check your brake fluid levels yourself, this will be one for the professionals. 

If the ABS warning light is also illuminated this signals that the braking system has malfunctioned and your brakes may not work properly. In this case the Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) warning light may also be illuminated.

Can I still drive with my brake 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.

Pull over and stop as soon as it’s safe to do so - keep your speed low and avoid braking suddenly. 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 are not functioning properly: call for recovery if you have a breakdown cover policy.

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Malfunction indicator lamp

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Also known as the MIL or engine management light.

When the engine management 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, like a fault with your emission control system or catalytic converter.

How long can I drive with my check engine light on?

If the check engine light comes on you should get it checked as soon as you can, as by continuing to drive you risk causing further, potentially irreparable damage to your engine. 

Use our search tool to find your nearest RAC approved garage. Or, if you have RAC Breakdown Cover, call for recovery.

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Airbag warning light

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Also known as the supplemental restraint system (SRS) warning light or safety system warning light.

When this light goes red it means that at least one element of the airbag safety system is not working correctly: either the airbag system itself; the front passenger occupant classification system (which detects the front passenger’s weight and position in order to safely deploy the airbag); or the seat belt pretensioner system, which tightens the belt in the event of a crash.

Can I still drive with my airbag light on?

If the airbag system is not working properly, it may not go off in a crash - or in some cases it could even deploy unexpectedly and cause a crash. Either way, the airbag system is an incredibly important safety feature of your car so if this light comes on please get it checked out immediately.

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Electronic power steering warning light

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Also known as the EPS or EPAS warning light

This warning light indicates that there’s a problem with the power steering and on Kia dashboards, it sometimes appears without an exclamation mark.

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 after 30 seconds. If the light stays on you should take your car to get checked as soon as possible.

Can I drive with my electronic power steering light on?

You can but 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.

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Diesel particulate filter warning light

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Also known as the DPF or exhaust particulate filter warning light.

If you have a diesel, one of these lights will come on if there is a problem with the exhaust 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 these filters can be expensive to replace. 

Learn more about diesel particulate filters and how to maintain them.

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Engine temperature warning light

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Also known as the coolant warning light.

This light will come on when the engine is overheating. This could mean that coolant levels are running low, perhaps 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 temperature warning 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 to fix the underlying problem. 

An overheating engine can cut out as well. Rather than risk it, you should call for recovery if you have breakdown cover.

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Oil warning light

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Also known as the low engine oil or low oil pressure light.

The 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 low engine oil 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 for recovery if you have breakdown cover, as driving any further could damage the engine. Watch our video guide to checking your car’s engine oil.

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.

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Tyre pressure monitoring system

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Also known as the run flat indicator RPA or low tyre pressure warning light.

Many Kias 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 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.

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Battery warning light

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Also known as the battery charge light or battery charging system light.

If this light comes on 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 battery charging system 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!

If you do run out of charge, you can try to jump start it, or call for recovery if you have RAC Breakdown Cover.

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Anti-lock brake system (ABS) warning light

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

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 for recovery if you have breakdown cover.

For roadside assistance, you can call the RAC on 0330 159 1111 even if you’re not a member.

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Electronic stability control (ESC) or dynamic stability control DSC warning light

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Also known as Electronic Stability Problem (ESP).

This warning light and 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 not working properly.

The ESP light will light up with the word ‘OFF’ if the system has been deactivated, in which case you may have inadvertently turned it off.

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.

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Brake pad warning light

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Also called the brake pad wear warning light, if this symbol shows up it means a sensor has detected your brake pads are too thin.

Can I drive with my brake pad light on?

This warning light should come on before the brake pads become dangerously thin, so you have time to get them changed. You should replace as soon as you can though, as if they wear out completely it could be extremely dangerous.

For more information read our guide to brake pads

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