Six Car Gauges You Need to Know

Six Car Gauges You Need to Know

How to make sense of the dials and sensors

Cars come with a lot of gauges, especially on older models. Even newer model cars offer so many diagnostic numbers that they can confuse the most experienced drivers. To help you make sense of your dashboard gauges, here is a rundown of the six most important car gauges you’ll encounter.

What is the speedometer?

The most basic car gauge is the speedometer, the indicator that tells you how fast you’re going. But this gauge isn’t just impacted by your speed; your tires also play a role. Larger tires rotate at a slower rate, which means that if your tires are overinflated or you’ve added bigger tires to your vehicle, your speedometer will register a slower speed. That means that you should be aware you may be speeding even if your speedometer is at the speed limit.

Alternatively, smaller or underinflated tires rotate at a faster speed, meaning your speedometer may be saying you’re going faster than you actually are. That said, always pay attention to your tire pressure.

If you have any questions about your tires or car repair stop into any of HEART Certified Auto Care locations.

What is the fuel gauge?

Another important car gauge is the fuel gauge, and its indicators are very straight forward: F means “full,” and E means “empty.” But, of course, sometimes we’re too focused on the road to pay attention to our fuel gauge. Luckily, most cars have a warning light if your fuel goes too low. Always pay attention to this light, because driving on dangerously low fuel not only leads to potential breakdown but can lead to overheating and costly repairs. 

What is a tachometer?

Here’s one that’s more obscure: The Tachometer. This measures your engine’s revolutions per minute (RPM). The higher end is typically color coded red; that’s not an area you want to hit. If your tachometer is in the red, that means your engine is rotating dangerously quickly, which can lead to damage and costly repair. Just as important, running at too high of a RPM also burns more fuel faster, decreasing fuel efficiency, straining not just your engine, but your wallet. 

What is the temperature gauge?

You know how you put coolant in your car? The temperature gauge makes sure it’s working and lets you know when it’s not. Older model cars often have a gauge that spans from cold to hot (C or H), while many newer models simply have a light that illuminates when your car engine is running too hot. If your car is consistently too hot, or too cold, that means there’s an internal issue that could lead to potential damage. If your car’s temperature light turns on, visit one of HEART Certified Auto Care’s three convenient Chicago area locations. We’ll have you back up and running in no time. In fact, 98% of our service is done same day.


What is the oil pressure gauge?

Older models often have a dial displaying oil pressure, while newer models often have a little light that turns on when oil is low. Either way, if your oil pressure is low, it’s time to visit HEART Certified Auto Care. Oil is the lifeblood of your car — see our tips on oil maintenance here — and running with low levels can wreak havoc on your car engine.


What is the charging system gauge?

Measured in volts, and often 8-16, the charging system gauge monitors your vehicle’s electrical system. If it’s running on the higher end, that means you’re using more power; if it’s on the lower end, that means you’re using less power. If a light goes on, that means you have a problem with your car’s electrical system and should visit a trusted car repair shop ASAP. We of course recommend HEART Certified Auto Care, and so do others: we have over 500 five star reviews.

If you have further questions about your car gauges or any other car repair matter, call or stop by one of HEART’s three convenient Chicago area locations: HEART Wilmette, HEART Northbrook, or HEART Evanston.

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