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

Stumped by your S90? Confused by the colours on your V60?

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

The lights on a Volvo dashboard follow a traffic light colour system:

  • Green: the system is working correctly or is currently in use
  • Orange: 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

Master warning light

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This light indicates a fault that could affect your safety. 

It usually appears with a message on your driver display and you might notice a second light illuminates to help pinpoint the problem.

Can I still drive with the master warning light on?

According to Volvo, the master warning symbol indicates a fault ‘which could affect the safety or drivability of the car’.

You might find it more difficult to drive than usual, or even worse, end up in a dangerous situation behind the wheel.

You should pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so, call a professional for help and avoid the temptation to turn your engine on again. 

Our breakdown patrols will be happy to help even if you’re not a member. Simply call the RAC on 0330 159 1111.

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Collision risk warning light

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The red silhouette of a car will appear on your driver display when you’re extremely close to a car, pedestrian, or object in front of you, when driving at speeds below 30mph.

Part of Volvo’s City Safety™ system, the collision risk warning light indicates that automatic brakes have been applied to help avoid a collision, or at least to reduce the impact of a crash.

Although your car will slow down without your help, the safety feature isn’t designed to replace your own driving instincts. 

What should I do when the collision risk warning light turns on?

You won’t have much time to react when you see the light appear. 

City Safety™ is activated as late as possible to avoid unnecessary intervention, so you should take control swiftly and safely to attempt to avoid an accident.

Remember, drivers are always responsible for maintaining a safe distance and speed in their car.

If the light appears at speeds over 30 mph, or remains turned on after starting the engine, you’ll need to visit a trusted garage for help.

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Transmission warning light

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Sometimes known as the drivetrain or powertrain warning light.

This light appears on automatic cars when sensors detect a fault in the transmission.

Fluid levels and temperature may be higher or lower than they should be, but you might not notice any difference in your Volvo’s performance. 

Automatic transmissions are expensive to replace, but if you act quickly you may be able salvage your existing system.

Can I still drive with the transmission warning light on?

We wouldn’t recommend it. Choosing to ignore the light and continuing to drive can lead to irreparable damage and a costly replacement.

Some cars may go into ‘limp home mode’, where they limit the vehicle’s top speed to reduce damage to the transmission.

The best course of action is to visit a trusted garage as soon as possible.

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Fuel cap warning light

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Probably the least worrying warning light on your dashboard.

The fuel cap warning light turns on when... you guessed it, the fuel cap isn’t properly screwed in.

You should ensure the fuel cap is screwed in tightly and close the flap door when you next stop your car.

Although it doesn’t indicate a serious fault, it’s best to check the cap is screwed in properly at the nearest opportunity. Especially, if you’re prone to leaving the cap on the roof of your car as you refuel.

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

You should have no problems driving with the fuel cap warning light turned on. 

Driving without the cap screwed shut won’t harm your engine or cause you to lose fuel, thanks to a clever valve. 

However, if the light appears when the cap is fixed into position, there may be an air leak in the fuel system. 

The problem is more common in older cars and will need professional help.

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Frost warning light

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The frost warning light, or snowflake symbol, will illuminate on your dashboard when outdoor temperatures drop between –5° and +2° C.

Consider it a warning about slippery road surfaces rather than an indicator that there’s a fault with your car.

And remember, temperature recordings may be slightly higher than what they should be when travelling at lower speeds or when your Volvo is stationary.

Can I still drive with my frost warning light on?

Absolutely. The light doesn’t suggest driving in cold weather will damage your car, but you might need to rethink your journey.

Ask yourself if the trip is necessary and if you’re not confident about driving during winter, our guides are here to help.

You should pack your car with winter essentials too. That way, you’ll be prepared if the worst happens and you break down in harsh conditions.


If you find yourself stuck on the road, you can always call the RAC on 0330 159 1111, even if you’re not a member.

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Glow plug warning light

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Also known as the preheating light or warming lamp light.

Glow plugs are used in diesel cars to preheat the engine. 

The glow plug warning light illuminates when you turn on the ignition to show that the engine is warming up. You might notice the light as you demist your windscreen on a cold day.

Once the light switches off, you’re good to go.

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

If the light stays switched on when driving, it may be time to replace your glow plugs.

You might have to do the same if your car struggles to start in cold conditions, or if your vehicle tends to shake when idle.

Thankfully, replacing a glow plug is a straightforward and relatively cheap job. An RAC approved garage will ensure everything’s properly taken care of.

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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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Engine management 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 supplemental restraint system (SRS) 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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Power steering warning light

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Also known as the EPS (Electric Power Steering) warning light

This warning light indicates that there’s a problem with the power steering and on Audi 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 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. 

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Coolant warning light

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Also known as the engine 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. 

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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This yellow or red light is 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 Audis 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 problem (ESP) or dynamic stability control DSC warning light

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Also known as Electronic Stability Control (ESC).

This warning light sometimes appears as the initials ESP 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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