The major reasons behind dashboard lights flashing and clicking are issues with your battery, bad alternator, faulty starter, damaged ignition switch, and worn-out spark plugs.
Keep reading this article to find out more about these issues in detail and learn how you can fix them. We’ll also discuss what the red dot light on your dash means, how it works, and what it means when the dashboard lights on your car blink. Let’s begin!
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Dashboard Lights Flashing And Clicking [5 Reasons To Fix]
If you’re wondering why are the lights on my dashboard flickering, you’ll get the answer in this section. Here are the most common reasons behind dash lights flashing discussed in detail:
1. Battery Issues
If you’re wondering why are my dashboard lights blinking, the first major reason behind it is a loose battery connection. The large positive terminal of the battery often doesn’t tighten up and fails to provide a good constant. That ends up in the dash lights flickering.
The second common battery issue is that it will be running low on charge. The battery won’t take a full charge no matter how long you charge it if the battery has low fluid or shorted a cell. Perform a load test on your battery and see if that’s good.
This issue can also be caused if the battery has a bad ground. It happens when the terminals of the battery are not clean. The connections of the terminals should be tight and clean for the battery to function properly.
The battery could also be dead. You can easily test for a dead battery with a voltmeter. If the battery draws a current that is much less than 12V, it means your battery is not in a good condition and it’s time to consider replacing it.
How To Perform A Load Test On Battery
Before you start load testing your battery, make sure you’re wearing protective equipment to keep yourself safe. Check the condition of the battery and see if there’s any leakage coming from it.
Also, check for corrosion on either terminal of the battery and whether the sides of the battery have bulged or not.
Once that’s done, you’re ready to perform the load test. Follow these steps to do the load test on your battery:
- Turn the headlights on and keep them on for at least 20 minutes.
- Don’t start the engine during the first 20 minutes.
- Crank the engine while the headlights are on after this time.
- Observe the brightness of the headlight.
If the headlight dims down a little bit on cranking the engine, that means your battery is fine and well-charged. But if the headlights dim down a lot, that means your battery has failed the load test.
If the connection of any of the terminals of the battery is loose, make sure they’re tight and that should solve your problem. If it’s running low on charge, you need to recharge it.
You’d have to replace the battery if it’s dead and not drawing enough voltage. Proceed with the solution depending on the issue of your battery and that will get the dash lights to stop flashing.
2. Bad Alternator
Another common reason behind your dashboard lights flashing and clicking while driving is a bad alternator. The alternator charges the battery and some of the other components in your car.
If your battery is fine, the next thing you should look at is the alternator. When it overcharges or undercharges your battery, it won’t work properly and cause the dash lights to flicker.
Some common symptoms of a bad alternator that suggest it’s time to replace it are:
- The dashboard light blinks on “ALT” or “GEN”.
- The dim lights or the other electrical components in your car have slowed down.
- Groaning noise from the engine.
- The smell of melted wires or burning rubber.
If the symptoms mentioned above match with your car, it’s highly likely that you have an issue with your alternator and you need to replace it. It’s expensive to replace the alternator and it’ll cost you anywhere from $300 to $900 if you hire a mechanic to do it.
3. Faulty Starter
The starter is an essential component in your car engine that’s responsible for starting the ignition process. It engages the flywheel of the engine when you turn the key and gets the engine rotating.
But if you notice the dashboard lights flickering car won’t start, chances are you have a bad starter. Start diagnosing a bad starter by looking at the starter relay first. If it’s clicking, you need to check the starter solenoid and motor.
The starter solenoid passes an electrical current to the starter and that makes your car start when you’re cranking the engine. Any issues with the starter solenoid won’t pass the current to the starter and your car won’t start.
The motor is an important component in the starter that needs to turn over to start the engine. If it fails, your car will also fail to start in that case and you’ll hear a grinding noise when you turn it.
The other common symptoms of a bad stater besides dashboard lights flickering on and off are:
- Your car’s engine won’t turn over.
- You’d be able to see or smell smoke when you try to start the engine.
- The starter motor won’t spin.
- Grinding noise when starting the motor.
If the issue is caused by a bad starter relay, you can replace it with a new one. It’s an easy and inexpensive fix. But if there are issues with the starter solenoid, you’ll need to replace it so that electricity can pass properly to the starter when you turn the engine over.
If the starter motor is bad, you’d have to replace the starter in your car. A starter can cost between $100 to $350 depending on the quality. You’d also need to pay labor charges that can go up to a few hundred dollars to replace your starter.
4. Damaged Ignition Switch
The ignition switch is where you put the key in to crank your vehicle. When you put the key in, it signals the starter to start the car and recognizes the correct key. It also powers many electrical components in your car that are supposed to turn on only when the engine is on.
But the ignition switch can wear out with time. They generally last for five to seven years and they can go bad after that period. If you’re wondering why are my dashboard lights flickering and your car doesn’t start, a faulty ignition switch could be the culprit behind it.
The faulty ignition switch in your car needs to be replaced with a new one to stop the dash lights from flickering. Follow these steps:
- Take off the screws from the bottom of the steering column cover.
- Pull off the cover.
- Unscrew the screw connected to the ignition switch.
- The switch assembly will come out.
- Unplug the wiring harness connected to the switch.
- Pull out the old ignition switch and put the new one in its place.
- Connect it to the wiring harness and tighten the screw.
Note: For your better understanding, you can also read our comprehensive guide on how to replace the Pontiac Grand ignition switch on your own:
5. Worn Out Spark Plugs
The spark plug ignites the air-fuel mixture in the engine to start the car. They can get corroded and wear out with time. When they wear out, they can keep the dash lights flashing.
The other symptoms of a bad spark plug are engine misfiring frequently, having trouble starting the car, high fuel consumption, and lack of acceleration.
There are spark plugs on each of the cylinders in your engine. You can pull them out and visually inspect the spark plugs to see if they’re corroded. If it’s too black and covered with carbon, it is worn out.
Once you diagnose the faulty spark plugs in your car, you need to replace the spark plugs. Follow your owner’s manual and ensure you get the right spark plug for your car.
What Does Red Dot Light On Dashboard Mean?
There are usually red, orange, and white LED lights on the dashboard of a vehicle to indicate the driver of several issues. The red light on the dashboard of a car indicates a security issue of the car.
It notifies the user that the anti-theft system of the car has been activated. This feature is called the immobilizer system. It starts the siren in case of theft and sends a code to the ECU to not ignite when cranking the engine.
However, don’t confuse the red dot light on the dashboard with the red warning light. The warning lights in your dashboard are generally of two colors – orange and red.
While the orange light also detects an issue with your engine, you can still drive with it. But the red warning light indicates a serious issue with the engine and you shouldn’t drive your car in that condition.
The red warning light on your dashboard can indicate an overheating engine, low oil pressure, or a problem with the brake system of your car. Pull over your car immediately when you see this warning light.
Diagnose the code by looking at your owner’s manual. If you don’t know how to do that, consult a mechanic in that area and have him or her take a look at your car and see what’s causing the trouble.
How Does The Immobilizer System Work?
While seeing a red light can be concerning as we associate the color red with something negative, there’s no need to be worried when you see the red dot light on the dashboard blinking. It just means that the immobilizer system in your car is functional and ready to react against attempts of theft.
So, how does this system work? It activates automatically when you lock your car. It’s a two-step authentication system that gets triggered when the hood, tailgate, or the doors of your car are opened by force.
When the security system is triggered, it sounds an alarm and continues to flash the headlights. It’ll also start if you put in the key with the wrong key fob. You’d have to reprogram your new key if you’ve lost the original one to bypass the security system.
Can Your Drive With The Red Dot Light Turned On?
It’s completely safe to drive your car with the red dot light turned on if you got into your car with the correct key. It often gets activated during parking and it’ll automatically turn off after a while.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to start your car as the ignition won’t work if the red dot light is on. So, you should always start the car with the right key fob to prevent triggering the red dot light on your dash.
But if it comes up when you’re driving, you shouldn’t be too concerned. You should get your car checked for faulty wiring or systems in the car at your own time.
What Does It Mean When Your Dashboard Lights Blink?
The onboard diagnostic system in your car is designed to communicate important information to you regarding the health of the engine. This information is normally conveyed through the dashboard warning lights.
You need to know what the dashboard warning lights mean so that you can properly diagnose the issue of your engine. Here are the general rules you should keep in mind when the dash warning lights in your car blink:
Brief Flashing When You Turn Engine On And Shuts It Off
A brief flashing of the dash lights when you start the car is completely normal. Each car performs a self-check when you start the car to make sure everything is in order. If the lights go out within a few seconds of starting the self-check, there’s no reason to be concerned.
Light Flashes And Remains On
If the light doesn’t turn off but remains on after the initial self-check, it’s an indicator that something is wrong with your car. The check engine light refers to issues with the engine.
The ABS light signals problems with the anti-lock braking system. The TPMS light represents problems with the tire pressure management in your car. This light acts as a warning and a starting point of where the issue in your vehicle is coming from.
Normally, the check engine light stays on but doesn’t flash or blink. But if your check engine light is constantly flashing, it is signaling that there are multiple problems with your engine.
It’s a good idea to stop driving the car at this point and have a mechanic take a look at your car if you’re unsure what’s causing the problem. The oil light indicates a drop in the oil pressure and the temperature light indicates that you have an overheating engine.
What are the main reasons a battery goes bad?
A battery normally goes bad after 3-4 years of usage. It can also go bad if the alternator fails to charge it or overcharges it.
Why do the dash lights flicker when idling?
The dash lights flickering when you are idling is a sign of a failing alternator. However, it can also be caused by wiring issues in your car or a bad battery.
Why are there no dash lights and the car won’t start?
If there are no dash lights and the car won’t start, it’s highly likely that something is wrong with the battery. It’s either dead, corroded or the connections at the terminal are loose.
Why are all the lights on my dashboard flashing?
All the lights on your dashboard flashing point to a bad alternator. The three main culprits that you need to be on the lookout for if you have flashing dashboard lights are the alternator, battery, and starter.
The dashboard lights flashing and clicking in your vehicle is a big warning sign that something is wrong with it. Now you know what flashing dashboard lights mean and how you can approach this problem.
We hope this guide will help you understand the exact reason why the dash lights in your vehicle are flickering and how you can fix it. Drop a comment below if you have any more questions about this topic.