The most common dashboard lights represent the battery's level of charge, the vehicle's temperature, various issues with the engine and the oil pressure. While not all dashboard lights are universal, the above are fairly broadly used by most auto manufacturers.
The check engine light indicates that the vehicle's computer has diagnosed a problem and has set a code readable by a professional mechanic's scanning device. Reasons range from the vehicle requiring new spark plug wires to a new oxygen sensor.
The battery light usually offers an alert when the vehicle's battery voltage level is below normal. The temperature light generally indicates whether the vehicle is overheating or not warming up to average temperature levels. The oil pressure warning light usually means a loss of oil pressure. It is important to check oil levels immediately when this light appears, as an oil leak potentially leads to a seized engine, which is an expensive repair. Many vehicles also come equipped with an oil change reminder light.
Less common but still in use on many vehicles are tire pressure lights, brake system lights, a loose gas cap light and an ESP fault light, which indicates there are issues with the vehicle's anti-skid, traction control or electronic stability systems.