Hybrid car warning lights: the most common symbols explained

What is your hybrid car trying to tell you? Common hybrid car dashboard warning lights, and what to do about them...

John Evans
Sep 24, 2021

Warning lights on the dashboard are often alarming, but that’s the point - not to instil panic in the driver, but to alert them to something significant that’s happening, usually under the bonnet.

Ordinary petrol or diesel cars have a well-established convention that means they all share similar warning lights. It’s an industry standard that hopefully makes it easier for drivers to keep tabs on what their car is trying to tell them. That said, there are plenty of people who’ve never had cause to learn the meaning of even standard car warning lights - if that’s you, then you can check out our guide to the warning lights common to all cars.

If you own a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle, there’s a layer of additional technology that ordinary cars don’t have. Batteries, motors and control systems all need to be operating perfectly for efficient running, and if they’re not your car needs to be able to alert you to any problems.

We’ve put together a list of some of the more common hybrid car warning lights and explained their meanings below. Unlike ‘traditional’ dash warning lights, carmakers have not yet come up with a common standard for these, so symbols can vary and the warnings in your car may look a little different. The vehicle handbook should help you out if that’s the case.

At least the standard colour system that indicates the urgency of a problem is still used, and they’re pretty intuitive:

  • Red warning signs indicate a serious issue. Stop the car and investigate immediately.
  • Amber warning signs relate to problems that need attention. Check your car as soon as possible.
  • Green, blue or black and white signs are informational and don't indicate a fault.

In addition to warning lights, hybrid cars also have unique symbols for various driving modes, which are displayed on the dashboard. See our guide to hybrid cars for more on statuses such as EV Mode and Charge Mode.

 

Hybrid car warning lights

Click on a symbol to jump to an explanation of what it means and the best way to respond.

 

Should I trade my hybrid car in if a warning light comes on?

Not every light indicates a serious problem: some issues could relate to a faulty sensor, for example, so it's a good idea to get get a full diagnosis before making a decision.

That said, if an expensive component such as a battery pack or cooling system has failed then you may want to change your car rather than invest in your existing one. Plug-in hybrid car batteries can be particularly expensive to replace, but it's worth checking whether the carmaker will voluntarily contribute towards the repair. The car industry is keen to promote the benefits of hybrid drive and is aware that costs still have some way to fall.

 

Part-exchanging a hybrid car with a warning light on

If you are getting rid of your car without repairing it, then the warning light will almost certainly decrease its value, unless it's something such as low windscreen wash - although even a seemingly trivial light like this says something about how a car has been maintained - or not.

You can expect a dealership to investigate the issue and price the cost of repairing it into their offer.

 

High temperature

What to do Stop immediately

This light appears on conventional cars, where it indicates a problem with the engine cooling system. In hybrids, the symbol will also illuminate if the high-voltage battery cooling system is faulty. This is even more serious since it could lead to a fire.
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12V battery warning light

What to do Reduce your speed, paying special attention to the steering and brakes, and drive to the nearest dealer to have your car checked.

Hybrid cars have two batteries: one to power the motors and another 12-volt battery, just like a conventional car. This is used for other electrical items such as the headlights and power steering. This flat battery symbol shows that there is an error with the 12V battery, so it will need immediate attention. Bear in mind that the car may not be safe to drive.
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Hybrid system fault

What to do Pull over when safe and reset the engine by switching it off and restarting after two minutes. If the light returns, get it checked as soon as possible

Like the engine warning light in a standard car, the hybrid warning light can come on for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others. It will either be red or amber, depending on the issue. Turning off the engine and waiting for a few minutes before restarting it will reset the system. If the light returns you’ll need to have the system scanned for error codes. The main fuse for the hybrid battery will also be checked, as will all other fuses. This can also be shown as a car with an exclamation mark through it (see below)
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Hybrid system fault

What to do Pull over when it’s safe, switch of the engine and leave for two minutes before restarting. This should reset the system but if the light returns and the car is otherwise safe to drive, get it checked as soon as possible.

This can be amber or red depending on the seriousness of the issue.
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Cable plugged in

What to do The charging connector is connected to the car so, if necessary, disconnect it.

This reminds you that the car is connected to a charge point. You may have finished charging, so this light reminds you to disconnect the vehicle.
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E-Mode

What to do Continue driving and wait for electric power to be restored.

This warning light means the electric driving mode is temporarily unavailable, perhaps because you’re accelerating too strongly or driving at higher speeds. Assuming the battery has sufficient charge, electric power will return at lower speeds, under gentler acceleration and during parking manoeuvres.
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