What Is The Meaning Of The Car And Lock Symbol?

Cars are designed with different symbols which alert the driver about certain things about the vehicle. In most cases, these symbols are not a cause for panic as they mostly go away once the car starts moving. However, it is still important that you take note of these symbols and know what they mean because they might be an alert for a potentially critical problem.

One of the symbols you must have seen as you drive is the car and lock symbol. The red nature of the symbol might cause you to worry, as red is mainly used to denote danger or potential danger. Hence, you might wonder, what does the ‘car and lock’ symbol mean?

Here Is What the Car And Lock Symbol Means

The ‘car and lock’ symbol denotes the initiation of the vehicle’s anti-theft system. However, it might seem like you’re locked out of your car. It is simply a precaution car manufacturers take to ensure that the vehicle is not vulnerable to attack by thieves.

Car And Lock Symbol

Although the ‘car and lock’ system is installed to prevent forced car entering and theft, the system might become activated even when the car’s safety is not compromised. There are several other reasons which might contribute to this happening.

For instance, a low or dead battery can activate the anti-theft system. Once the battery of the vehicle is low, there is a possible loss of key memory, which might signal to the car’s anti-theft system that something is wrong; thus, the system is activated.

What is an immobiliser?

Your car will most likely have an immobilizer if manufactured after the year 1998. So, what does an immobilizer do to a car, and how does it affect the mechanisms triggered when the ‘car and lock’ symbol is activated?

Well, the immobilizer is a pre-installed security feature that deactivates your car’s engine if the wrong key is used. When a wrong key is used to start a car, the immobilizer immediately reacts to prevent the vehicle from moving.

Once this happens, the immobilizer sign starts blinking multiple times on the dashboard. The immobilizer sign is the ‘car and lock’ symbol which, as the term states, is a car with a lock by the side.

You might wonder if the immobilizer can be activated using a keyless ignition. If you are using a keyless ignition, the ‘car and lock’ symbol can still be activated significantly if your key is not close by or your vehicle’s battery is low.

The immobilizer is an electronic system that works on the transfer of signals designed to initiate the anti-theft system when a wrong signal is transmitted.

When a key is turned, specific codes set on the key are transmitted to match the one on the vehicle; hence if there’s a mismatch, the anti-theft system is activated. This same principle works with keyless ignition. The key must be close by for the receiver in the car to read the code on the key.

Possible causes for lights staying on when the key is close

Since a transponder chip is located within the key fob, which relays a code to the vehicle’s immobilizer system, the key must be close enough for the code to be relayed. However, the immobilizer system may be triggered, and the lights are turned on even when the key is close enough for the code to be relayed.

Low Battery

As aforementioned, a low battery can cause the immobilizer light on the dashboard to come on. When a car’s battery is low, it loses memory of the key; hence, even with the key close by, the car might not start because its code will be unrecognized and treated as foreign to the vehicle.

Bad Key

Your car’s immobilizer system might also be triggered if the key is bad. You might not quickly notice, especially if you’re using keyless ignition. The chip in the key might be bad; thus, it will not relate the right code to the immobilizer system. Once this occurs, the anti-theft system is triggered automatically, and the lights go on.

Damaged Immobiliser

If your immobilizer lights refuse to go off on your dashboard, you might want to check the state of your immobilizer. You might have a damaged immobilizer that is not receiving the code from the transponder key.

Damaged Car Door Lock

If the anti-theft system detects any forced entry into the car, preventive measures are taken to ensure the vehicle’s safety. The immobilizer becomes active, the lights are turned on, and the car’s engine is prevented from working.

This best describes what happens when your car door lock is damaged. The immobilizer system might be an advanced system for security, but it isn’t a sophisticated AI system.

Hence, the system might not tell the difference between a forced car entry and a damaged car door lock. Due to this, it might activate the anti-theft system and turn on the lights on the dashboard.

How to bypass your car’s anti-theft system

We have put together an extensive guide detailing what approach you can take to disable your car’s anti-theft device. However, here are a few methods you can try:

  • If a low battery is a cause for the lights coming on, giving your car’s battery a boost might help you gain full access to your car. On the other hand, if the key’s battery is the cause for the immobiliser’s light, it can easily be replaced as well.
  • A bad key can be replaced to bypass the anti theft system. However, this might be a hassle if you are in a hurry, thus, regularly check the state of your key.
  • If your immobiliser is damaged and keeps bringing up the lights on the dashboard, repair at the mechanic’s workshop might be essential. The same applies to a damaged car door lock.


It is most likely that your car might come with an immobilizer system, but if it isn’t, you can easily install one at a professional mechanic’s shop. Everyday things that activate the immobilizer lights even when the car’s safety isn’t threatened include low battery, bad key, damaged car door lock, damaged immobilizer, etc.