Home » These Ferrari Warning Lights Seem To Demand The Impossible

These Ferrari Warning Lights Seem To Demand The Impossible

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There’s something about car dash warning lights that’s not often discussed: they give orders. They’re the only time our cars really talk back to us, rudely or at least brusquely, inverting the relationship we normally have with our cars. Usually, we’re the ones telling our cars what to do, with the motions of our hands and feet, but sometimes our cars have enough and demand that we CHECK ENGINE or STOP ENGINE IMMEDIATELY or REFUEL or HAVE SOME COFFEE or some similar sort of dire plea. There are warning lights on some Ferraris that demand we SLOW DOWN, like it’s our mother, and there’s some version of these lights, the ones I want to show you, that just make no sense. Let’s take a look!

First, let’s get into why the SLOW DOWN warning light exists at all. It’s not because the car is scared of how terribly you’re driving. You, as a Ferrari owner, are of course fully qualified to pilot this powerful machine in pretty much any circumstance, right?

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Right?

No, it’s got nothing to do with the clear and obvious danger you’re putting everyone around you in as you slide around a corner by a playground at 74 mph. It’s got to do with heat, and how that heat is cooking your expensive catalytic converters, which would be bad. More modern Ferraris use a simple lamp that simply tells you to SLOW DOWN, but earlier models offered the driver more information – which is normally a good thing, but in this instance highlights one of the great conundrums of information displays.

Here are the older-style warning lights:

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Slowdown 79 308 B

 

See that? You have two SLOW DOWN lights there, one on the left (enlarged) saying SLOW DOWN CYL 1-4 and another on the right, indicating SLOW DOWN CYL 5-8. If you’re so blessed to have more than eight cylinders, you get lights that match:

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Look at that, we have warnings for 7-12 and 1-6. These are, it seems, some of the most common dire warning lights that Ferrari owners have to deal with.

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What I find fascinating about these SLOW DOWN lights is how having more information made the message so much more confusing. When an angry red light comes on to shout SLOW DOWN CYL 7-12 at you, I’m pretty sure everyone’s first reaction is “How the hell do I slow down only cylinders seven through 12?”

I mean, unless you’re pulling one of the heads off the engine and attempting to do terrible things with liquid concrete, there’s no way you’re going to be able to slow down just one bank of cylinders, no matter how much that light yells at you.

Now, I get there are two catalytic converters in the car and two sets of temperature sensors, so it’s letting you know which bank of cylinders and its attendant cat is having trouble. The problem is this light design is conflating the action the car wants you to take – slow down – with the more granular information about which bank of cylinders needs attention.

Both things are important! It’s great to know which bank is too hot and it’s good to know what to do about it! But when combined into one warning light, your first reaction isn’t to immediately slow down, it’s to wonder, perhaps aloud, “how the fuck am I supposed to just slow down pistons one through four?

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Eventually, Ferrari replaced this with a simpler single SLOW DOWN lamp, which accomplishes the most crucial job – getting the driver to slow down – at the expense of the more detailed information regarding what cylinder bank is affected, though that information could be shown with other lights or displays.

The takeaway here is an interesting one, I think – one that maybe seems obvious in hindsight, but probably not when you’re first designing warning lights. Lights that tell you things for informational purposes and lights that tell you actions to perform should be separate things; otherwise, you end up in situations like this, where a car is asking its driver to perform impossible feats.

More impossible than getting a Ferrari driver to slow down, even.

 

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Red865
Red865
1 month ago

This reminds me of back in my teens, way back in the 80’s. One our friends had a 1981 320i BMW that was the designated road trip car. Late one night on way back home the ‘oxygen’ idiot light came on. He decided it meant too much carbon monoxide in car, so we rolled all the windows down and opened the sunroof. It was middle of winter! We’re thinking, man, these German cars are high tech! Rest of us drove dogged out American cars…with carburetors/no cats. Unsurprisingly, the idiot light did not go off 🙂

Grey alien in a beige sedan
Grey alien in a beige sedan
1 month ago

How about “SLOW DOWN, or the cat will be shat”

BudBlade
BudBlade
1 month ago

I think ya’ll mIssued the big picture. If your Ferrari has a light telling you to slow down……then it’s really telling you that you bought the wrong Ferrari

Parsko
Parsko
1 month ago

SHIFT!!!!

That’s the one I don’t like. I’ll choose when, computer. If it had it’s way, I’d be in 6th at 30mph.

Last edited 1 month ago by Parsko
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  Parsko

The upshift light on bike is so aggressive it wants me to upshift when I’m over 3500. The thing is, this two cylinder idles at 1750 and in second and especially third gear the difference between those is well within normal ebbs and flows for traffic. I’d be lugging around at 1250 rpm if that damn light had its way.

(I turned off the light itself, but there’s still an up arrow nag on the gear indicator.)

Sampson Jackson
Sampson Jackson
1 month ago

I prefer the JDM BBQ Light, personally ???? well, unless it turned on because someone stole your 30yo catalytic converter

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
1 month ago

I suppose “Rallenta Per Favore” is too much for a little red light?

Jonathan Hendry
Jonathan Hendry
1 month ago

SLOW DOWN
$$$$$$$$

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago

WARNING!!! DANGER TO (exhaust) MANIFOLD!

Last edited 1 month ago by Hangover Grenade
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago

Deep cut, well done

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 month ago

Giving cylinder information *radically* increases the likelihood of a Ferrari driver slowing down. If you just tell them Slow Down they’re gonna think “suck my nuts/labia/whatever”

If you tell them there’s a specific engine problem that requires slowing down, the value of the information will rise relative to their genitalia

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

That is an interesting problem, but you use the word “older” without specifying model years. Is this pre-OBD?

Because if so, I have to acknowledge it’s probably difficult to do well or efficiently.

In my obsessive accountant eyes, in the absence of OBD but the car still being “smart” enough to understand the problem, I’d probably want the warning to say:

“SLOW DOWN
Bank [x-x] catalytic converter overheat”

But of course, that’s a lot to put on a warning light; the second line is diagnostic, not immediately practical while driving; and abbreviating it would be hard because who knows what some uninformed people would think if it said “CAT OVERHEAT”.
(“But I only have a dog, and he’s fine!”)

On the other hand, this is all with hindsight and also knowing that, whatever the solution(s) eventually was/were, this is not a problem I hear about today. So it might not be a good use of time to dwell on it, albeit it does make for a good UX/UI case study.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

My Ferrari has none of those warning lights, despite Jason putting an image of a Mondial up there that’s not mine, fucking cheek.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I was going to give you snide comment back, about the Mondial just simply being a warning in and of itself, but you don’t deserve that, and also the Mondial is about the only Ferrari I could hope to one day own.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago

Water pump aside my Ferrari is A GAME DAY PLAYER. I had it out at the weekend for a local car show. Started straight up after a month of inactivity.

AlterId
AlterId
1 month ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Doesn’t your Mondial date back to before catalytic converters were required in Europe, which Britain was a part of at the time?

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
1 month ago
Reply to  AlterId

Yeah it’s well pre-cat, which were mandatory from 1990 in the UK.

AssMatt
AssMatt
29 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

In a future piece, I’ll be looking for a photo of your binnacle idiot light bar; I see that the shifter-adjacent panel is the same as mine, but my ’83 (November) DOES have the SLOW CYL lights and I wonder what yours has in their place.

It wouldn’t be the only variation between our cars! See part 117646, count yourself lucky on that score!

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

I wonder if you can get a replacement part for the “slow down” light that reads “Imminent Fiery Death”. Abbreviate it to IFD if it’s too long.

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 month ago

As a product designer I often have to decide if a warning should tell the user what is wrong or what to do. In this example, just SLOW DOWN is not really sufficient because maybe you are driving across the Sahara and it doesn’t matter how fast you are traveling. If you display ENGINE HOT, then a reasonable driver will either slow down or stop, depending on their situation, to allow the engine to cool. But if they cook their engine and sue they will say, “You never told me to slow down”.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 month ago

Maybe Ferrari should just build cars better instead of wimping out with an idiot light.

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
1 month ago

I was going to chalk it up to “On 70s and 80s Ferraris,catalytic converters were an afterthought” but the pic of the F360 with the same damn light leads me to believe that your take is probably the correct one.

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 month ago

Why build a better car, when most owners are just going to leave them in a garage?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

I would prefer the Ferrari play a loop of the chorus from ELO’s ‘Sweet Talkin’ Woman’ if it wants me to slow down.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

That sounds far preferable to what first leapt from my brain – Foghat’s Slow Ride.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Both are good choices. The Supremes ‘Stop in the Name of Love’ could serve as more fire warning.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Not that song, this Arthur Brown song describes the Ferrari ownership experience to a T.

https://youtu.be/-4SnIJJCH8w?si=G4BAcmRpEtQZ4Dhs

I am the god of hell fire, and I bring you!
Fire, I’ll take you to burn.
Fire, I’ll take you to learn.
I’ll see you burn!

You’ve fought hard and you saved and earned,
but all of it’s going to burn.
And your mind, your tiny mind,
you know you’ve really been so blind.
Now’s your time, burn your mind,
You’re falling far too far behind.
Oh no, oh no, oh no, you’re gonna burn!

Fire, to destroy all you’ve done.
Fire, to end all you’ve become.
I’ll feel you burn!

You’ve been living like a little girl,
in the middle of your little world.
And your mind, your tiny mind,
you know you’ve really been so blind.
Now’s your time, burn your mind,
you’re falling far too far behind.
Oooooooooooooo.

Fire, I’ll take you to burn.
Fire, I’ll take you to learn.

You’re gonna burn!
You’re gonna burn!
You’re gonna burn!
Burn, burn, burn, burn, burn,
burn, burn, burn, burn, burn, ahhhhhhhhh

Fire, I’ll take you to burn.
Fire, I’ll take you to learn.
Fire, I’ll take you to burn.
Fire, fire ahhhhh…

Last edited 1 month ago by Hugh Crawford
Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I don’t know if Ferrari has ever deigned to make television commercials, but I bet they could use that as the music bed in an entire series & it wouldn’t deter anyone. It might even serve as a defense against fire-related lawsuits – truth in advertising!

(Not unlike Arthur Brown himself – “The Crazy World of”, indeed)

Last edited 1 month ago by Dead Elvis, Inc.
Memphomike
Memphomike
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

I sang that song at the top of my lungs the first time I met my now best friend.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
1 month ago
Reply to  Memphomike

Only the finest people know of Mr Brown’s oeuvre.

Alexk98
Alexk98
1 month ago

As bizarre as cylinder specific indicators are, its at lease more direct than the more standard Catalytic converter overheat light I like to refer to as the “hot pocket” light which to a non-car person is really confusing. Also I’d half expect Ferrari to label it “rallentare” instead of actually translating it to English.

Last edited 1 month ago by Alexk98
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

That’s terrific…I’ve never seen that (which is good, I guess). I enjoy how conversely, to enthusiasts, it’s immediately obvious what the part is.

Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

But all a Hot Pocket light is going to do is make someone hungry…

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
1 month ago
Reply to  Alexk98

Or “Ritard.” like in sheet music

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago

I like the directness of it.

Older Porsches have an oil level gauge that 1) looks very much like the other various oil gauges and 2) falls into the red as soon as you really get going.

Together, for me anyway, that can add up to a freakout at speed that then prompts an immediate stop, at which point the needle goes back into its all good range.

I wish it were labeled “true at stop only” or something, on which the owner’s manual goes into some detail.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jack Trade
Fjord
Fjord
1 month ago

These seem like a combination of an immediate warning plus added information so that you can look into the situation, in the days before you’d just plug in your OBDII reader. Now it’s all dumbed down, like how we rarely get actual temperature gauges.

V10omous
V10omous
1 month ago

Can we talk about the tachometers that show a 10 but redline at 7250 or whatever?

I get that Ferrari wants to be optimistic/show how cool they are, but that’s a lot of wasted space.

They probably could have saved money and not lost any real info if they just bought their orange gauges from Pontiac.

Last edited 1 month ago by V10omous
Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

My Mustang’s tach does that. I enjoy the long red hash mark b/c dramatic and all, but really, it’s nearly a third of the gauge.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Maybe you should just adjust the rev limiter. Make use of that gauge space!

Always broke
Always broke
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

I’m not sure that’s just a Ferrari thing, I think most (all?) of my vehicles have redlines around 60-75% of the full scale (although none of mine go to 10k).

CrystalEyes
CrystalEyes
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

I believe I commented on this before, about my failure to find an after market tach for an old GM truck where even half of the dial is of any use.

Mike Harrell
Mike Harrell
1 month ago

It’s probably the piston speeds that are the problem, not the cylinder speeds, but I admit that if the cylinder speeds are a problem, then that’s certainly a problem.

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Harrell

Especially if there’s a disparity between cylinder speeds.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
1 month ago

You could just be turning… The outside bank would have to move faster!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
1 month ago

My stepdad’s 308 had a minor engine fire thanks to this series of events:

Dead battery => jump start => high current draw from battery => overtaxed alternator=> weak spark => incomplete combustion => unburnt fuel in cat => hot cat + flammable engine bay grime = engine fire.

I dunno if that light ever went on or if it did and he missed it. Fortunately I was following him home and saw the fire as it started so we were able to quickly put it out with no damage to the car. Even the paint was fine.

Jerry Thomas
Jerry Thomas
1 month ago

That looks like an old timey aviation annunciator panel. That’s a cool way to make idiot lights look.

AssMatt
AssMatt
1 month ago

Sure, but what happens if I ignore it because I rarely break 30MPH? Seriously asking.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 month ago
Reply to  AssMatt

In an ideal world, there’d be a green SPEED UP light (“you need to get her up to optimal operating temps for best performance you wimp!”) too.

AssMatt
AssMatt
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

It’s tough to find goody roads in my neighborhood, but I do get to stretch the legs from time to time between the rains. I’m still sorting out acquisition fixes with the mechanic. This one’s on the list, but I don’t want it to explode before we get there!

Drew
Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

After that light’s been on long enough, the car starts telling you that you should buy something else and let someone actually use the engine.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
1 month ago
Reply to  AssMatt

Should really be an “Upshift” warning rather than “Slow Down.” I slow down, at least initially, by downshifting which just causes the pistons to move faster. Of course, if your foot is off the gas, then the hot cylinders should cool.

But if you have a Ferrari owned by Captain Pedantic, he/she could downshift and keep the revs up, slowing the car but moving the pistons faster. Firey lawsuit to follow.

Memphomike
Memphomike
1 month ago

That is what I do when I see a cop.
Maybe better wording would be “slow engine.”

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