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

Got the warning lights on your Micra muddled? Still learning your way around your Leaf?

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

The lights on a Nissan 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

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 Nissan dashboard mean, why they come on, how urgent the problem is and what you should do when you see them.

Master warning light

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Although red lights are usually used to highlight serious problems, Nissan’s master warning light can be triggered by minor problems in your car.

A message explaining the issue will usually appear next to the triangle icon to save you from guessing what the issue might be.

Can I still drive with my master warning light on?

That depends on the fault.

As soon as you see the master warning light switch on you should look for an accompanying message to explain the problem.

Sometimes topping up your oil or closing your door firmly shut is enough to switch it off.

If the light appears because of a serious fault or if you’ve fixed a highlighted problem but the master light stays on you should seek the help of a professional.

An RAC-approved garage will be happy to help.

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Water in fuel warning light

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There are a few variations of the water in fuel warning light.

Most will include some kind of canister representing the fuel tank and a wavy line to indicate water.

It only appears in cars with diesel engines as they’re equipped with filters that remove water from fuel. 

You might notice your engine working less efficiently and a noticeable drop in power.

Can I still drive with the water in fuel warning light on?

It’s all down to timing. If you notice the light turn on when you’ve just topped up on diesel the fuel may be contaminated. 

You should switch the engine off as soon as it’s safe to do so to avoid damaging the injection system.

If the warning light comes on under normal driving conditions your car should be safe to drive but should be drained as soon as possible.

In both scenarios it’s best to enlist the help of a trusted garage

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Glow plug warning light

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Also known as the warming lamp light.

Glow plugs are used to preheat the engine on a diesel car. 

You’ll normally see the amber sign illuminate when turning on the ignition as your Nissan warms up for the drive ahead. 

Once it switches off, you’re good to go.

Can I still drive with my glow plug warning light on?

Glow plugs are prone to wear and tear, so it’s common for the parts to develop faults over time.

If the amber light stays on when driving, you should seek the help of a professional.

Thankfully, replacing a glow plug is a straightforward and relatively cheap job.

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Suspension warning light

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The letters ‘CK SUSP’ will appear on your dashboard to indicate a fault in the suspension system. It’s easy to remember if you think of the message as shorthand for ‘check suspension’.

You might find that the body of your Nissan is lower to the ground or that it feels less stable, especially when driving over speed bumps. 

Can I still drive with my suspension control warning light on?

You can, but you’ll risk causing further damage to your car. 

A faulty suspension system will make your Nissan more inclined to bounce on the road, especially on a pothole-riddled route.

If the problem is particularly bad you might find it more difficult to steer your car and you could find yourself in an unsafe driving situation.

To ensure you keep control of your car and to switch the light off you should visit a trusted garage as soon as possible.

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Ice warning light

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This warning light will appear when temperatures drop and there may be ice on the road. 

You might notice the light as you demist your windscreen on a cold day. The warning is less likely to appear when your engine is warm and the car is stationary or travelling at lower speeds.

When you see the snowflake symbol you should take extra care behind the wheel. Our advice for safe driving on ice covers tyre grip, braking distances and much more to help you travel safely during the colder months.

Can I still drive with my ice warning light on?

It’s easy to dismiss the ice warning light because it indicates poor driving conditions rather than a fault in your car.

Although it’s possible to drive your Nissan in colder temperatures, the warning light should remind you to assess your journey. Ask yourself if your trip is necessary and if so, be extra cautious on the road. 

Packing some winter essentials could make an unexpected breakdown easier to manage.

If you find yourself stuck in cold conditions don’t hesitate to call the RAC for recovery on 0330 159 1111 whether you have breakdown cover or not.

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Automatic transmission warning light

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The message ‘AT CHECK’ will appear on your dashboard if a problem develops in the transmission of your automatic. 

The problem could be electrical or mechanical and is usually difficult to assess without professional help.

Can I still drive with the automatic transmission warning light on?

It might not be possible to drive your Nissan when this light is on.

You should contact a trusted garage as soon as possible to take a look under your bonnet and see how they can fix the problem. 

Gearbox repairs are typically expensive, so enlisting the help of a mechanic as soon as possible could help you make significant savings.

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Engine management warning light

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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 airbag and seatbelt 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.

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 EPS 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 temperature 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 overheating 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 pressure 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 warning light

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

Many 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.

The light often appears with an on-screen message to let you know which tyres you should check.

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.

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.

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

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

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Also known as Electronic Stability Problem (ESP) light or ASR light.

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

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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