Hybrid car warning lights: the most common symbols explained

What is your hybrid car trying to tell you? Full details of the most common hybrid car dashboard warning lights

John Evans
Feb 28, 2019

Conventional cars have dozens of warning lights that could suddenly switch on to indicate a problem - and hybrid vehicles have even more to be aware of.

With an electric motor and battery pack in addition to an engine, there are more warning symbols to understand, whether you have a standard hybrid car or a plug-in hybrid with larger batteries that can be charged up from a socket.

We've listed the most common hybrid car warning lights below. Unlike the warning lights common to all cars (listed in a separate article), manufacturers have developed their own versions, so symbols do vary and your car may not use images that are identical to those below.

However, the standard colour system that indicates the urgency of a problem is still used:

  • 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 car maker will voluntarily contribute towards the repair. The car industry is keen to promote the benefits of hybrid drive and 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 in to 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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