Car Buttons

It seems like every time they bring out a new model vehicle there are more car buttons added to the already extensive dashboard controls. While it can be overwhelming, especially if you are new to driving, or are used to older models, we’re here to help. Read on as we give you an overview of some of the most common buttons & controls you will find in your vehicle, how to identify them, & what they do.


A vehicle’s windscreen can fog up quickly; with fog or frost in cooler months when your vehicle has been parked outside overnight for example, or during warmer months when there is high humidity inside the vehicle that causes condensation. The demister button quickly & effectively blows air from the vents straight onto the windscreen, providing better visibility for a safer drive. Turning up the intensity of the air will make the process quicker. The button’s symbol will be roughly the shape of a windscreen with three wavy arrows going through it & is usually found in amongst the air conditioning controls.

Rear Window Demister

This car button turns on the rear demister & works the same way as the windscreen demister but clears the rear windscreen. This button’s symbol is similar to the main demister, but with a rectangle rather than a windscreen shape. It should be located near the windscreen demister button.

Fog Lights

Many drivers may not have yet experienced a situation where they have needed to use these lights. As the name suggests, fog lights are to be used in foggy conditions when visibility is poor (less than 100m) but are also recommended in other hazardous weather conditions such as dust storms or smoke. They deliver a flat, wide beam shape to cut through the fog & light up the road without reflecting off the fog & dazzling the driver (which is what can happen with normal headlights in these conditions). Like high beams, fog lights are very strong & should only be used when headlights are ineffective & should be turned off immediately once it is safe to do so.

In most cars you’ll need to turn on your low beam headlights before pressing or twisting the fog light switch. Or the button is often hidden down near your right knee. It will be symbolised by a beam shape with a wavy line through three small horizontal lines (almost like a sideways jellyfish).

Parking Assist

The Park Assist button is becoming standard on most newer models produced.  As safety has improved, the width of the rear pillars have increased & the size of the rear window has decreased, making it more difficult to reverse. Parking assist is especially useful on large SUVs which have a considerable blind spot immediately behind the car. Parking sensors are mounted in the rear bumper & it uses radar to detect a parking spot. It then produces a chime before engaging the engine and taking over the steering. Most systems still require you to use the accelerator and the brake. It can assist a skilled driver reverse park quickly, a nervous parker’s best friend, as well as significantly reducing accidents with small children in driveways or car spaces.

 It will usually come on automatically when you put the car into reverse, but the button gives you the option to turn it off.

The Park Assist button is often tucked away down by your knee on the right-hand side & is symbolised with the letter ‘P’ & usually 3 curved lines next to a triangle.

Door Lock/ Unlock

Some vehicles will automatically lock all the doors once you reach a certain speed. However, this button (which looks like a locked padlock, or a key symbol) allows the driver to lock all of the doors simultaneously if the feel unsafe. The unlock button (the unlocked padlocked symbol side of the button) easily unlocks doors to let passengers enter the vehicle.

High Beam Headlights

High beams are the brightest light on your vehicle & are designed to help you see as much of the road ahead as possible. They are angled higher than low beams with a centre-weighted distribution of light, providing more illumination of the road than low beams. They are especially useful for driving at night on unlit roads, & areas where it difficult to see due to lack of streetlights or other external lights. Some newer cars come with automatic high beams while some will switch to low beams when detecting oncoming traffic. To manually turn them on, you usually activate them by pushing the headlight wand forwards & deactivate them by pulling it back. The high beam symbol is a blue shape that resembles a headlight with five horizontal lines vertically stacked to the left of it (some have described it as similar looking to a bullet or sideways jellyfish).

Hazard Lights

The hazard lights button is illustrated with a red triangle & is usually somewhere near the centre of the dashboard. When pressed, it activates the same orange or red lights located at the front & rear of the vehicle used for your indicators, & causes all four flash simultaneously & continuously. They warn other road users of a hazard or emergency. You deactivate them by de-pressing the button.

Cruise Control

Cruise control will typically be a button on a stalk on your steering wheel, with a symbol of a speedometer with an arrow pointing at a particular speed. Cruise control allows you to select your speed & then the vehicle will maintain this speed without you having to press the accelerator. It helps to give your foot a rest on long drives where the speed stays the same (on the M1 for example) & prevents your speed from creeping up & copping a speeding fine.

Braking, changing gear, or physically turning it off all disengages the cruise control mode.

Child locks

These child lock switches (symbolised with a child within a padlock) are found on the inside of one of the rear doors in older cars. In more modern cars, the button is often found on the door controls on the driver’s side near the window switches. When activated, they prevent children (rear passengers) from being able to open the door from the inside. However, they can be inconvenient when carrying adult passengers, so it’s important you ensure you disable them when not needed.

Collision Warning and Automatic Braking

The collision warning system uses cameras or sensors on the front of your car that detect if you’re approaching a vehicle in front of you too fast. It will then give you audible and visual alerts to allow you enough time to slow down. Sometimes automatic braking is also included, doing the braking for you. This system is becoming more standard with newer vehicles & the button is represented by two cars end to end, with a small crash symbol in between.

Blind Spot Warning (BSW) 

Blind spots are areas or ‘spots’ where you cannot see other vehicles in your side-view or rear view mirror. This is why traditionally when merging or switching lanes, you should always turn your head fully to check your blind spot, even after checking your mirrors. Blind Spot warning technology detects the presence of other vehicles in your blind spot & alerts you visually with a yellow light in your side mirror, & sometimes also with an audible alert. The button looks like two cars alongside each other with a small ‘crash’ symbol between them.

Recirculated Air

Within the air-conditioner system controls on the dash, there will be either a button, or a slide or knob (depending on the age of the vehicle) which has the symbol of a car with a curved arrow inside of it (that looks a bit like a fish hook). This function draws air from inside the car as opposed to pulling air from the outside. Recirculated air is a good option in city driving, so you aren’t drawing in dust or fumes from other vehicles with the outside air. For best fuel efficiency; choose the recirculated air conditioning mode. Another good time to use the recirculating air button is when you get into a hot car and turn on the air conditioning, or when you get into a cold car in winter and want to heat the car faster. However, using this feature without also using the AC will eventually fog up the windows as the moisture from your breath increases the humidity in the car, condensing on the windscreen & windows. Keep in mind too that this may not be ideal for long trips, as the reduced oxygen level in the car can cause fatigue.

Steering Wheel Adjustments

Most vehicle’s steering wheel’s adjustment function is a lever mounted under, or near, the steering column. Ideally you would do this while stopped, along with adjusting mirrors & your seat position etc. You flick the lever & then move the steering wheel up or down (sometimes even towards you) & then lock the position in by flicking the lever in the opposite direction. A good rule of thumb is to place your wrist at ‘10 & 2 o’clock’ on the steering wheel with your arms straight. This will ensure when driving & holding the wheel, your arms will be slightly bent, giving you both comfort & control.

Trip Meter

A trip meter (trip odometer) resets to zero at any point when pressed, recording the distance travelled between point A & B on a vehicle’s journey. It is traditionally a small button on the dashboard near the speedometer. Traditionally, it is a manual button, although these days it is now mostly electronic. It can be used to help you monitor your fuel economy. Set the trip meter to zero when you fill up & work out how much you’ve spent by how many kms you get before having to refuel.

Service you can trust

At Burleigh’s Mobile Mechanic we aim to educate you, whether it be your car buttons or any other function of your vehicle. If you have any issue with, or questions about your vehicle, we are here to help!

Give one of our friendly team a call on 0412 161 776 & remember to follow us on Facebook for more information, tips and specials.