Starting your vehicle

Before you start driving your vehicle, make sure that you understand what the gauges, indicators and warning lights on the instrument panel mean. If you’re not sure about any of them, check your vehicle handbook.

Warning lights

The warning lights let you know when there’s a problem with your vehicle. Knowing what these lights mean and what to do when they are lit will help you protect the engine and other equipment from damage.

The lights will vary from one vehicle to another but these are the most common ones

  • oil pressure
  • ignition
  • anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  • brake condition
  • water temperature.

Some vehicles have on-board diagnostic systems that tell you when there’s a problem with your car. They differ from one car to another. Check your vehicle handbook to find out more about the diagnostic systems in your car.

Starting your car

Different vehicles have different ways of starting the engine. Look at the vehicle handbook to make sure you know how your car starts.

Most modern cars are fitted with anti-theft devices, such as steering column locks and immobilisers. These are usually turned off when you unlock the car or when you put the key in the ignition.

Cars with petrol engines have a choke: this reduces the amount of air in the air/fuel mixture that goes into the engine, which helps to start the engine when it’s cold. Modern cars usually have an automatic choke, but older cars may have a manual choke. Check the vehicle handbook if you’re not sure how to use this.

Cars with diesel engines may have a preheating device to help start the engine: if there’s an indicator light, you should only start the car when it goes out.


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