How to check car electrics before you buy.

Dashboard warning lights and their meanings.


In just a few minutes you can check every electrical item on the vehicle is working correctly.

This is an important series of checks as dealers are less likely to agree to electrical repairs compared to mechanic ones.

The adage goes, ‘sorry, that is not covered by our basic warranty’.

Below is a full list of electrical components. Certain items will not be fitted to all makes and models:

Begin by starting the vehicle to ensure all the dashboard lights illuminate and switch off in around 5 seconds of a running engine.

Pay attention to:

Engine management light | ABS Lights | Airbag Lights

warning lights including ABS, engine management and glow plug


These are the more common warning lights for faults and costly mechanical repair. Should any of these lights remain illuminated after a few seconds of starting the vehicle, there is likely to be a significant mechanical issue.

After an ignition test switches the engine off but leaves the ignition on. This allows you to test electric items while ensuring the vehicle battery is reasonable. If the battery is poor and about to fail it’s likely to do so after these tests are carried out.


Ensure each of the following is working correctly:

  • Electric windows front and rear – also check windows on their independent switches
  • Electric sunroof
  • Electric mirrors
  • Electric seats
  • Heated seats
  • Central locking and remote central locking
  • HornSide lights and headlights and main beam
  • Wipers front
  • Wiper rear
  • Hazards
  • Any additional features the vehicle may have


Restart the engine and test all features listed below:

  • Power steering is light
  • Air conditioning runs very cold (wait up to a minute for ice cold air) If the air-con is not working a re-gas may be required. If not, the condenser may be faulty which can be costly to repair.
  • Electric handbrake
  • Fog lamps front and rear
  • Stereo system / Bluetooth etc
  • Sat nav
  • Cruise control illumination (depends on make and model of vehicle as some may need to be at speed for a warning light to activate)
  • Cigarette lighter for the USB port
  • Fuel gauge
  • Rev counter
  • Dashboard background illumination lights


In last weeks article, we demonstrated how to perform a car mileage check via a visual inspection (this is secondary to our online mileage check)

The team, CarVeto

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