What To Do If Your Car’s Security Light Is On

An illuminated security light indicates a fault in the car’s anti-theft immobilizer system. Try a new key or go to a mechanic to get it fixed.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Jan 02, 2023
If your car’s security light is on, there may be a problem with the anti-theft system—especially if you’re not able to turn the car on!
We’ve probably all been there: you’re driving merrily along and you notice a light you’ve never seen before on your dashboard. You’re sure that light wasn’t on yesterday—but you’re not sure what it means. Is it time to panic? Is your car about to explode, or is this one of those dashboard lights you can ignore?  
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, is here to answer all your dashboard light questions. In this article, we’ll cover security lights: what they are, what they mean, and what to do if you notice that little car-and-lock symbol illuminated on your dash. 
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What is the security light on my dashboard?

The security light on your dashboard is an indicator for the car’s anti-theft system. It serves two main purposes: 
  • When the engine is off: In some cars, the security light flashes when the ignition is off to show that the security system is active. 
  • When the engine is on: A security light that stays on when the engine is running shows there’s a fault in the anti-theft system. 

What does the security light look like? 

Like most
dashboard lights
, the security light can look different from car to car, but it always consists of two images—a car and a key or lock. Look for these three symbols in red or gold: 
  • An outline of a car with a key in place of the back wheel
  • A car head-on linked with a padlock
  • A car with a key in the center

What does the security light mean?

Just like your
check engine light
and other dashboard indicators, the security light will illuminate briefly when you turn your car on. That’s called a bulb check—it keeps you from missing important information about your vehicle due to a burnt-out dash light. But what if your security light is on outside of that initial bulb check? 
If the security light is illuminated or flashing when the car is off and you have no trouble starting the car, don’t worry! That’s just your car’s way of assuring you that your anti-theft system is working. 
If the security light stays lit when the engine is running, or if the security light is on and you can’t start the car, there’s a problem with your anti-theft system. Here are a few possible causes: 
  • Battery failure caused the computer to lose track of your key
  • Smart key malfunction 
  • Locking or unlocking issues
In short, an illuminated security light means that your car doesn’t trust the key you’re using to start the car. In theory, the immobilizer security system could be triggered by an attempted theft, but it’s more commonly a result of a battery problem.  

How to turn off your dashboard security light

If your security light is on and you can’t turn the car on, start by trying another key. In most cases, the security light means that the car no longer recognizes the key you’re using, so you may be able to bypass the problem by using a different key.
If a second key doesn’t fix the issue and the light is still on, call a trusted mechanic to help you identify the issue and reprogram the anti-theft system. 

How to find affordable car insurance

In the same way that a security light helps the anti-theft system defend your car, a good
car insurance
policy can defend your wallet from the costs that come with theft, vehicle repairs, and accidents. But car insurance is also among the most expensive car-related expenses. 
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