Car Dashboard Meters And Gauges Explained | Sun Auto Service (2023)

In addition to the lights on your dashboard that illuminate signaling that something needs checking, car dashboard meters are constantly communicating the most important things a driver needs to know while on the road. While many drivers would consider the two most important gauges on the vehicle the speedometer and fuel gauge, each vehicle is equipped with other gauges that provide useful information on the vehicle’s condition while on the road.

(Video) Dashboard & Symbols

Most vehicle car dashboard gauges include the speedometer, fuel gauge, tachometer, water temperature gauge, and the oil pressure gauge. Here’s what you need to know about the dashboard meters and gauges and how each one may affect how you drive:

(Video) How To Diagnose And Repair A Gauge Cluster

  • Car Dashboard Meters And Gauges Explained | Sun Auto Service (1)Speedometer– The speedometer is a gauge that indicates the current speed the vehicle is traveling. Speedometers can be digital, like a digital clock, clearly indicating the speed, or mechanical using a needle to indicate the speed of the vehicle. Speedometers reflect the speed of the vehicle from the transmission output shaft speed sensor, which is then converted by the vehicle’s computer via an algorithm to display the proper speed. The old days the vehicles used a speedometer cable instead of a sensor. Pro Tip: Drivers should always monitor their speed for safety purposes and to avoid speeding tickets.
  • Fuel Gauge– The gauge notifies the driver how much fuel is left in the vehicle to burn for combustion. Without fuel, the engine cannot produce the power it needs to propel the vehicle. The gauge is connected to a component within the tank, attached to an arm or rail referred to as a “float” literally floats in the gas tank. Most fuel gauges display the amount of fuel in a stick or digital bar as opposed to gallons remaining. The needle does not move constantly while the vehicle is moving because the gauge is using a system that averages out the reading in live time, similar to a percentage. Many vehicles are equipped with a digital low fuel indicator, advising drivers to stop and fill up the tank. However, relying on this indicator can prove detrimental for the fuel pump. Gas keeps the fuel pump from overheating and wearing out prematurely. Pro Tip: For a more accurate estimate of how much fuel is left in the tank, drivers should check the gauge when the vehicle is on a level surface and not accelerating or decelerating, It is recommended to fill the tank once it reaches ¼ tank to keep the fuel pump properly lubricated. Not sure where your gas cap is? In many newer cars, a small triangle, located right next to the fuel gauge, will point to the left or right side of the vehicle to indicate whether the gas cap can be found on the driver or passenger side.
  • Tachometer– The tachometer’s job is to display the speed of the engine in revolutions per minute or RPMs. Because transmissions have many gears, the speed of the car does not match engine speed and transmission gears are designed to convert the speed of the engine into acceleration and performance. A tachometer is helpful while pulling a trailer or going up and down steep grades. However, they’re most often used with manual transmissions to indicate to the driver when to shift gears. This function is of no use for drivers of automatic transmissions, as the vehicle will shift gears as needed.
  • Water Temperature Gauge– This gauge communicates the temperature of the vehicle’s engine coolant. A thermistor, attached to the engine block or thermostat housing, provides the information that is then displayed on your dashboard. While many vehicle dashboard gauges are analog or use needles to display the approximate temperature, some cars are able to provide a live, digital display of the temperature. The average temperature of a vehicle’s engine, while running, is about 195 – 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Many newer vehicles temperature reading are done by the vehicle’s computer and often triggers a warning light to illuminate if trouble is detected. Pro Tip: Pay close attention to your vehicle’s temperature gauge. An overheating engine can cause serious and permanent damage to the engine which could result in costly repairs or result in complete replacement.
  • Oil Pressure Gauge– Contrary to popular belief, the oil pressure gauge does not monitor the level of oil in the engine but instead the pressure of the oil being pushed through the engine. Similar to how blood pressure is monitored, the oil pressure gauge monitors the force pushing the oil through the engine using a sensor. A normal oil pressure, while the vehicle is in motion on the road, should be between 20 to 50 PSI (pounds per square inch) and can be significantly less when the vehicle is at an idle state. Pro Tip: Oil pressure will vary and can change based on the engine’s RPMs. If the oil pressure gauge drops or doesn’t read any pressure, turn the vehicle off immediately.
(Video) How to fix Engine Temp Gauge, Fuel Gauge, Speedometer and Tachometer (easy)
(Video) Every Dashboard Warning Lights in Your Car Explained | Part - 1
(Video) Car Gauges Explained-What Do They Mean


What do the gauges on my dashboard mean? ›

The minimum number of gauges on a passenger car dashboard are the speedometer and the fuel gauge. The most common additional gauge is the temperature gauge followed by the tachometer, voltmeter and oil pressure gauge.

What are the different meters on a car dashboard? ›

Most vehicle car dashboard gauges include the speedometer, fuel gauge, tachometer, water temperature gauge, and the oil pressure gauge.

What are the 3 main warning gauges on your dash? ›

They light up in case of a serious problem. There are three kinds of warning lights: Oil Pressure Warning Light. Temperature Warning Light.

What are the most important gauges in a car? ›

Oil Pressure Gauges

The most important instrument in the car is the oil pressure gauge. The instrument of choice for most racecars is a mechanical gauge. There are a number of different mechanical gauges on the market, but one consideration is the overall range of the gauge.

What gauges are important in a car? ›

  • Oil temperature gauge. Oil temp gauges find their way into the majority of stock performance cars, but if yours hasn't got one then it should be high on your list of priorities. ...
  • Oil Pressure gauge. ...
  • Battery voltage gauge. ...
  • Air/fuel ratio gauge. ...
  • Fuel pressure gauge. ...
  • Boost gauge. ...
  • Water temperature gauge. ...
  • Air temperature gauge.
10 Oct 2016

Which meter measure the speed in vehicles? ›

speedometer, instrument that indicates the speed of a vehicle, usually combined with a device known as an odometer that records the distance traveled.

What is A and B in car meter? ›

Odometer and trip meters

Some cars also feature two trip meters – Trip A and Trip B. Use Trip A for each fill up and note down the reading along with the litres filled. Then reset the trip and follow the same procedure each time.

Which meters are used in vehicles What are the used for? ›

Automobile meters such as Tachometers are used for measuring Rotation per Meter (RPM) of the automobile. It also helps to understand optimum time to change the gear to get maximum power and speed in a particular gear, so it is extensively used in dynamic terrains such as locomotion on inclined planes.

What are some common dash light warnings? ›

18 Common Warning Lights on Your Car's Dashboard
  • Oil Pressure Warning Light.
  • Tire Pressure Warning Light.
  • Engine Temperature Warning Light.
  • Traction Control Alert Light.
  • Anti-lock Brake System Warning Light.
  • Traction Control Malfunction Light.
  • Engine Warning Light (Check Engine Light)
  • Battery Alert Light.
25 Feb 2022

What does low oil pressure light look like? ›

This light looks like a genie lamp with a drop coming out of the end, but in some models it is a red light that says OIL. Any red warning light that your vehicle displays is an indication that your vehicle needs maintenance as soon as possible to avoid serious damage.

Which gauge indicates engine speed? ›

A tachometer is an instrument that measures the working speed of an engine, typically in revolutions per minute (RPM). It is commonly used in cars, boats, planes, and other vehicles. Most tachometer gauges have either an analog (dial) or digital (LCD or LED screen) display.

What is the gauge that indicates the number of miles? ›

A vehicle's odometer reading is one of the key factors in determining what that vehicle is worth, as it indicates the number of miles a vehicle has traveled.

What should your car temperature gauge read? ›

Most experts agree that your engine should run between 195 degrees and 220 degrees. In ideal situations, your needle will maintain a posture right in the middle of your gauge. Keep in mind that this can go up or down depending on the conditions in the vehicle itself (such as running the air conditioner or heater).

What 3 gauges are the most important to be aware of? ›

Which three gauges or indicators are the most important to be aware of? Coolant temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, and battery voltage gauge. How often is it advised to have maintenance done on your vehicle? At least twice a year.

What are 4 categories that gauges divided into? ›

Ring Gauges : External diameter measuring gauges. Taper Gauges : Taper testing gauges. Snap Gauges : These are used for checking shafts. Thread Gauges : These are used for pitch diameter of the thread.

How does the gauges work? ›

"Here [in the U.S.] it's measured by gauge." Gauge sizes work in reverse, meaning that the higher the number, the thinner the width. So higher numbers (like 16 gauge) are thinner than smaller numbers (like a 6 gauge). When discussing gauges, references to a "larger gauge" means bigger around, not a bigger number.

How does a car know its speed? ›

The movement of the gear produces an electrical current that is directly proportional to the rotation speed of the gear. A computer chip processes the current and translates it into a number that corresponds to the speed at which you are traveling, in either miles or kilometers per hour.

What measures speed and direction in a car? ›

Velocity is a measure of both speed and direction of motion. Velocity is a vector, which is a measurement that includes both size and direction. Velocity can be represented by an arrow, with the length of the arrow representing speed and the way the arrow points representing direction.

What is C and H in car meter? ›

The car's temperature gauge tells you whether the coolant in your car is working or not. The dial on this gauge must ideally stay halfway between cold and hot (C or H). If it tilts too much on either side, there is definitely an issue with the car's internal setup.

What is B on auto? ›

Brake position - B

In the B position the car brakes with the electric motor when the accelerator pedal is released while the hybrid battery is charging. This gives more opportunities for recharging the hybrid battery, since charging also takes place without the driver using the brake pedal.

What is b/in driving mode? ›

Gear B stands for “braking” in the simplest term. The B gear in the Toyota Prius or any other hybrid car functions as a lower gear that serves a unique function, much like shifting a manual gearbox to a lower ratio on a long downhill route.

Which meter shows the distance covered by an automobile? ›

An odometer or odograph is an instrument for measuring the distance travelled by a vehicle. The speedometer is used to measure the speed of the vehicle.

What is the gauge next to the speedometer called? ›

The tachometer is located on the dashboard next to the speedometer. It measures the revolutions per minutes (RPM). The tachometer can be a digital display or on a calibrated analogue dial. They are on both automatic and manual vehicles.

What is the most serious warning light in a car? ›

The check engine light is usually the most serious and feared warning because of the kind of damage it can signal. This warning often indicates the potential for serious engine damage. When ignored, your vehicle could suffer from a blown head gasket or a seized engine.

What is the most important indicator of warning light? ›

Typically, if the light is red it's urgent and if it is yellow, the situation is serious but not critical. Yellow warning lights should not be ignored; they mean you should take action! This is the most important indicator.

How do you read dashboard lights? ›

Dashboard warnings are indicated by different colors - green, blue, red, and yellow. The most serious problems like an overheating engine show up red. Yellow means imminent trouble. Green and blue lights indicate that a specific feature is in use.

When should I worry about dashboard lights? ›

Play it safe and check what that red or amber light means

Red warning lights need immediate action. Amber, orange or other colour lights often mean something needs checking by a garage.

What sensor causes check engine light? ›

The oxygen sensor, also known as the O2 sensor, measures the amount of unburnt oxygen in your exhaust system. A failing sensor can cause the check engine light to be triggered, though you can continue to drive relatively fine with it.

Can you drive with a warning light on? ›

If these lights come on, pull over and shut off the engine as soon as you can. Some cars may have a red check engine light to alert you to stop right away, while a yellow light stands for investigation. Take it easy!

What are the symptoms of low oil in a car? ›

Symptoms of Low Engine Oil
  • Oil pressure warning light.
  • Burning oil smell.
  • Strange noises.
  • Weaker performance.
  • Overheating Engine.

What does driving with low oil feel like? ›

Engine Clunking: When the metal parts in your engine aren't properly lubricated, they'll cause more noise when you're driving. You'll hear some grinding noises, but you'll hear a lot of clunking. If you hear this sound, check your oil level and schedule service if the oil level is low.

Which is the most used gauge while driving? ›

The minimum number of gauges on a passenger car dashboard are the speedometer and the fuel gauge. The most common additional gauge is the temperature gauge followed by the tachometer, voltmeter and oil pressure gauge.

What is car normal speed? ›

The normal average speed of a car on a road covering a certain distance is 50 km/h.

What is normal idle RPM for a car? ›

The idle speed should feel consistent without skipping or slipping. In most of today's cars, an idle speed of 600 to 1000 RPMs is average. If your car is idling rough, though, it won't feel smooth. The RPMs will jump up and down, for example, or they'll fall below 600 RPM (or whatever is typical for your vehicle).

What are the two most important gauges on the dashboard? ›

While many drivers would consider the two most important gauges on the vehicle the speedometer and fuel gauge, each vehicle is equipped with other gauges that provide useful information on the vehicle's condition while on the road.

What are different warning gauges in a vehicle? ›

There are three kinds of warning lights: Oil Pressure Warning Light. Temperature Warning Light.
The instrument panel contains gauges that include the following:
  • Speedometer, which indicates the speed in both miles and kilometers per hour.
  • Tachometer, which indicates rotations in the engine in revolutions per minute (RPMs)

What does the dashboard gauge represent? ›

The tachometer is the dashboard gauge that displays your car engine's RPM or revolutions per minute. The RPM is an indication of how fast your engine is turning. The RPM is typically displayed via a single digit, such as 1, 2, 3, etc.

How do I know if my car is overheating? ›

In addition to the presence of smoke or steam coming out from under your hood, some warning signs of an overheating engine include:
  1. A hood that is hot to the touch. ...
  2. A warning light or the temperature gauge on your dashboard. ...
  3. A loud ticking noise. ...
  4. Coolant on the ground.
28 Sept 2019

Where should temperature gauge sit in car? ›

In most cars, the temperature needle will be at or near the center when the engine is at normal operating temperature, which usually takes at least a minute or two to reach after starting a cold engine.

What car temperature is too high? ›

Of course, factors such as air conditioning, towing and idling at a stop will impact this, but you should be fine if your car is running at anywhere between 190-220 degrees. Over this limit, and your radiator and coolant fluids run a higher risk of burning.

What does 5/8 look like on a gas gauge? ›

The lines on the gas gauge are increments of 1/4 representing your gas tanks fuel level. Anything between 2 lines would be an eight. If the needle were between 1/2 and 3/4, this would mean you have 5/8 of gasoline in your tank.

Which 3 gauges or indicators are the most important to be aware of? ›

Which three gauges or indicators are the most important to be aware of? Coolant temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, and battery voltage gauge. How often is it advised to have maintenance done on your vehicle? At least twice a year.

Is it safe to drive with check gauges light on? ›

The answer to this will depend on why the check gauge light is on. If the check gauge warning means your engine is about to overheat, you should pull over. If the car gauges are just guiding you to check your washer fluid level, you should be fine to keep driving.

What does 3/8 of a tank of gas look like? ›

Ans: 3/8 of the tank is empty. Since the whole tank would equal 8/8, or 1, and 5/8 of it is filled, then that means 3/8 of it remains empty.

Why is my fuel gauge stuck on 3 4? ›

Your float in gas tank has either got something stuck in it keeping it from going on to full tank, or it's got a dead spot and your sensor's not reading. More than likely your vehicle hit a pothole and that bent the dial just enough to keep it from going to top. To fix it, you'll have to pull the float out of the tank.

What is the maximum reading of a gauge called? ›

The reading on a gauge, which is the difference between two pressures, is known as the gauge pressure. If the lower of the pressures is the pressure of the atmosphere, the total, or absolute, pressure is the sum of the gauge and atmospheric pressures.

How much does fixing car gauges cost? ›

If you want to go to a repair shop, expect to spend about $200 to $300 on labor if you buy the new gauge on your own. A dealership will charge even more, with some sources stating that you'll pay between $300 and $1,000 depending on the make and model of your vehicle.

How do I reset my gauges? ›

Press and hold the "Trip/Odo" button and turn the car back on. While you're holding the button, turn the key back to the "ON" position. Hold the button down for another 2 seconds after the car's back on, then release.

What are you reading when you look at a speedometer? ›

The speedometer of a car reveals information about the instantaneous speed of your car. It shows your speed at a particular instant in time.

What tells the speedometer the speed? ›

Electronic speedometers use a vehicle speed sensor rather than a drive cable to compute the speed of the vehicle. The sensor consists of a toothed metal disk, a stationary detector and a magnetic coil. The disk is attached to the transmission shaft of the vehicle.


1. How to find a short in a modern car fast and easy (The correct way)
(Junky DIY guy)
2. How Instrument Clusters Work & What to do When Gauges Go Bad.
(RockAuto Auto Parts)
3. Instrument Cluster (Speedometer & Gauges) Self Diagnosis for Nissan
4. Dashboard Warning Lights & Indicators Explained Simply
(World Driving)
5. Dashboard Warning Lights Explained - Instrument Panel Lights
(Backyard Chevy)
6. Dashboard Warning Lights Explained | Quick Tip
(Don Wheaton Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac Ltd)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Margart Wisoky

Last Updated: 03/04/2023

Views: 6464

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Margart Wisoky

Birthday: 1993-05-13

Address: 2113 Abernathy Knoll, New Tamerafurt, CT 66893-2169

Phone: +25815234346805

Job: Central Developer

Hobby: Machining, Pottery, Rafting, Cosplaying, Jogging, Taekwondo, Scouting

Introduction: My name is Margart Wisoky, I am a gorgeous, shiny, successful, beautiful, adventurous, excited, pleasant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.