Understanding “what are the most important gauges on your dashboard?” is one of the most critical skill sets you need to know as a driver. Typically, your dashboard has the following gauges:
1- The speedometer gauge displays your vehicle’s speed
2- The fuel gauge displays the amount of fuel left in the fuel tank
3- The water temperature gauge displays the current engine temperature
4- The oil pressure gauge displays the current engine oil pressure
Your vehicle's dashboard consists of a lot of gauges and warning lights. Although you must understand the different warning lights, it is also important to familiarize yourself with the different gauges on the dashboard.
Although we understand that the two most important gauges on your dashboard are the fuel gauge and the speedometer, there are other gauges that many drivers might underestimate.
This article gives you a quick tour around your vehicle's dashboard and highlights each gauge along with its important role. This way, you'll have a good idea about what each gauge means and what it is trying to communicate with you to make informed decisions about how to deal with the vehicle and when to expect issues.
What are the most important gauges on your dashboard?
Typically, your vehicle's dashboard will have common gauges, including the odometer gauge, the fuel gauge, the tachometer, and the oil pressure gauge. However, depending on your vehicle, some of these gases might not exist, and the information they're trying to communicate with you might be communicated through some common warning lights.
Let's take a closer look at some of these cases along with their important role:
1- The speedometer
One of the most important gauges that you need to keep an eye for is the speedometer. This gauge obviously indicates the speed of your vehicle. This gauge typically takes the signal from the transmission output shaft sensor and translates it into meaningful speed displayed in different formats.
Depending on your vehicle’s brands, the speedometer might display the speed by either a digital format or probably and mechanical format where a needle points to the right speed reading.
Why do I need to monitor the speedometer gauge?
You must monitor the reading on your speedometer all the time. This way, you don't have to deal with safety issues, and you don't need to worry about speed tickets that could be a big hassle.
2- The fuel gauge
Since your vehicle cannot run without fuel, paying attention to the fuel gauge is another important skill that you need to develop and maintain all the time. Obviously, the fuel gauge provides you with an indication of how much fuel is left in the gas tank.
Usually, fuel gauges are connected to a specific component inside the fuel tank called the float. This float sits on top of the gas and provides some sense of how much fuel is left inside the tank.
You will typically see the fuel gauge reading in a digital format or probably using a bar or a stick pointing to the right number of gallons. It is important to note that the fuel gauge does not necessarily move continuously while driving the vehicle. In fact, it averages out the left amount of fuel over time in terms of percentages.
Your vehicle also relies not only on the fuel gauge as a warning indicator if fuel drops below a certain threshold. Another warning light is linked to the fuel gauge, which is the low fuel indicator. This warning light immediately brings the driver's attention to stop the vehicle and refill the fuel we need.
Why do I need to monitor the fuel gauge?
For you as a driver, it is important that you went in continuous monitoring of the fuel gauge because fuel does not only help your vehicle move but also it prevents the fuel pump from overheating. So, therefore, you don't want to get into a situation where the fuel drops to a very low point not only because you can't drive the vehicle but also because you might sacrifice the fuel pump.
According to experts, if you are looking for accurate estimates about how much fuel is left in your fuel tank, you must look at the gauge when your vehicle is on a surface level and without hitting the speed pedal.
As an expert pro recommendation, you must never run a vehicle when your fuel drops below one-quarter of the fuel tank. This is because, after one-quarter of a tank, your fuel pump will start overheating and might get damaged due to insufficient lubrication.
If you're driving a model vehicle, there is another important formation that you might find next to the fuel gauge, which helps you locate the gas cap and determine whether it's located on the driver side of the passenger side. Typically, you'll find a small triangle with an arrow pointing to the direction of where to find the gas cap.
3- The tachometer gauge
Another less common gauge that you'll find on the dashboard is the tachometer gauge. This gauge indicates the engine revolving speeds, which are displayed in rounds per minute. Usually, drivers of a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission will not necessarily rely on the tachometer as much as other drivers who drive vehicles with a manual transmission.
Why do I need to monitor the tachometer gauge?
If you don't already know, your engine's speed is not the same as your vehicle's speed. This is because the transmission translates the engine speeds into the necessary speed needed by the vehicle to drive and accelerate or deaccelerate. The importance of the tachometer gauge comes in when the driver of a manual transmission needs to switch gears, and this gauge provides the driver an idea about which gear to switch to at this point.
Since automatic transmissions do not need the user’s inputs to switch gears, drivers of automatic transmission vehicles might not need to worry about the tachometer gauge.
4- The water temperature gauge
The water temperature gauge is responsible for providing you an idea about the engine's overall average temperature. This gate relies on a thermistor connected to the engine that gives the gauge an idea about how hot the engine is.
Typically, the optimal operating temperature for any engine is somewhere between 195 degrees and 220 degrees. When the engine's temperature exceeds this threshold, it is never a good situation because it indicates that the engine is overheating, resulting in complete engine damage.
Why do I need to monitor the temperature gauge?
It is essential for you as a driver to keep an eye on the temperature gauge to get an idea about any early signs of engine overheating. If you were driving a modern vehicle, the vehicle might also have an additional sensor or warning light that indicates issues with engine overheating when it happens. However, if you're driving an older vehicle, it is your full responsibility to monitor when your engine temperature exceeds 220 degrees.
Once you notice any symptoms of entering overheating, you must pull over and stop your engine from letting it cool down for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Then, you must follow other procedures to help your engine cool down fast and prevent complete damages. In some overheating issues, you might even not drive the vehicle for a single mile, and you'd better tow the car to the nearest independent shop to get it resolved as soon as possible.
5- The oil pressure gauge
Another very critical gauge that provides very sensitive information is the oil pressure gauge. This gauge gives you an idea about your current engine oil pressure. In any combustion system, engines must be continuously lubricated with a certain level of oil. Failing to lubricate the engine results in premature damages that could cost you the entire engine.
In some vehicles, your car might even be connected to a warning light indicating low-pressure oil when it happens. However, you must keep an eye on the oil pressure gauge most of the time and notice when it gets beyond 50 PSI. Once this happens, it could indicate some internal or external oil leak that might damage the engine if ignored.
Why do I need to monitor the oil pressure gauge?
As we indicated earlier, if your engine did not receive the right amount of lubrication connected to low oil pressure, you might sacrifice the entire engine. Therefore, you need to immediately stop the vehicle and reach out to a mechanic to get an idea about what to do next.
What is C and H in the car dashboard?
One of the very common questions that we received from many of our customers and readers is what the difference between the C and the H is reading on the dashboard. Typically, these readings are connected to the temperature gauge, and they basically indicate whether the vehicle's engine is hot or cold.
Therefore, the “C” letter indicates that your engine is called, and the “H” letter indicates that your engine is hot. Obviously, you want to stay as much as possible away from the “H” letter because it can be connected to engine overheating that might cost you thousands of dollars to repair.
You also want to stay away from the “C” letter, especially if it continues to happen all the time. This is because your engine still needs a certain temperature level to operate and send you the right energy to get the vehicle going. When the vehicle's engine is continuously on the cold site, it indicates that your engine cannot reach the operating temperature due to internal problems.
One of the very common problems that might keep your engine at and very cold temperature is when the thermostat inside the cooling system gets stuck opened. This way, the coolant runs on the engine and what happened without reaching the operating point.
What do the L and H mean on a car?
Similar to the previous questions, there are two other letters that you might find on your vehicle's dashboard, which are the letter “L” and the letter “H.” These letters are typically connected to the engine oil pressure gauge.
Both letters represent extreme situations where the letter L indicates a low engine oil pressure while H indicates a high engine oil pressure. You don't want your vehicle to stay close to any extreme values because very low engine oil pressure indicates some internal or external leak that could damage the engine. At the same time, the very high engine oil pressure might indicate other types of problems that could also cost you the entire engine.
Your vehicle is equipped with a lot of warning lights and different gauges on the dashboard. Therefore, for any driver, you must build the necessary skill sets like warehousing itself with all different gauges and understand their main purpose.
Thus, if you're wondering, “what are the most important gauges on your dashboard?” You'll typically find the speedometer gauge, which is responsible for displaying the vehicle's speed, the fuel gauge, which provides you an idea about how much fuel is left in your tank, the tachometer gauge, which informs you about the engine's current speed, the temperature gauge which tells you how hot your engine is, and the oil pressure gauge which helps you understand the current engine oil pressure.
If you notice any abnormal gauge reading, this reading might be connected to some major internal problems that could require very high repair costs. When that happens, you are advised to sell the vehicle instead of wasting your time and money getting it to work, especially if costs are beyond the vehicle's value.
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