It seems that with every new generation of certain vehicles, consumers get fewer gauges to monitor their vehicle’s vitals with. I’m still a bit concerned with how many cars don’t have coolant temperature readouts. Many of my beloved cars don’t want me to know about engine oil pressure, coolant temperature, or battery voltage. It doesn’t have to be this way, let’s give drivers their gauges back and then some!
Smart is one of those companies, and it skimped on gauges for the second-generation Smart Fortwo. See my cluster in the top image? What you see is what you get. Terrible, right? At least I was able to add a custom gauge face!
Thankfully, Smart learned its lesson and reintroduced a temperature gauge in the third generation, but I still come across too many cars with so few gauges. Let’s bring them back, and in fact, let’s add some! The Bishop already imagined some new ones, but here’s what our readers have to say.
Reader newbalanceextrawide said:
Fart Detector. Recognizes the concentration of methane in the cabin to let you know when to vent effluence with the windows, or appropriate vents.
Fantastic idea, but A. Barth takes the COTD win with:
Measured per seat, so there can be no lying about who dealt it.
Since we missed a couple of COTD entries, I’m bestowing another win on bill.fetter, who wrote:
How about the “Its night and you’re driving with only the DRL’s on warning?” I don’t see how we can have new cars these days that even allow this to occur, because I bet they have dusk sensing lights, except they aren’t in that position– but I see it constantly– people driving at night with no lights on except some dim DRL’s out the front– because the dash is lit up. This warning light would actually be…if it’s night and your lights aren’t on, the dashboard is dark, except for a message that says Turn on your lights, dummy.
I love that response! So many cars have digital gauges or gauges that are illuminated all of the time. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve seen driving around with illuminated dashboards but just DRLs on. Weirdly, one time I also followed behind a person driving an old Ford Escape without headlights on. The dash was totally dark and this was on a dark Indiana highway. They drove it that way for about three hours before finally turning their headlights on. I spent much of the time trying to get them to turn their lights on to no avail. But, how does that even happen? Maybe cars should be like motorcycles and have lights on whenever the ignition is on.
For my own suggestion, how about a carbon monoxide gauge? Every winter, news publications write about people who shut down or leave cars in snowstorms out of fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. Those people sometimes end up dead or in the hospital, but what if your car had a way to tell you about cabin carbon monoxide?
My wife, Sheryl, has some real galaxy brain stuff. She says that she’d love to have a fuse monitoring system. If a fuse blows, then you get a warning! Her other idea may be a little more out there, but she says that she’d love to have a compression tester gauge. As in, your car should have a built-in compression testing system, displayable right there on your dashboard. She’d also love to see a timing belt and serpentine belt life gauge. I’m not even sure that’s possible, but I love it. Have you ever bought a car from someone and didn’t know when the belts were last done? What if the car somehow knew?
Have a great evening, everyone!
COTD Win! I’m honored
It was a good one! Thinking about it more after yesterday’s discussion, your idea could be implemented pretty easily as a semi-translucent “lights are off” banner that appears across the gauge cluster if the sensor detects it’s dark out. You’d still be able to see the gauges, information beneath it, but you’d have to actively ignore it to do so.
“Maybe cars should be like motorcycles and have the lights on any time the ignition is on.”
Driven a GM product from the last, oh, 50 years?
Anyways, I sure don’t prefer the Chevy Way.
David Tracy should have a corrosion gauge that tells him the percentage of vehicle that is remaining, complete with yellow and red warning areas
There’d have to be red warning areas on both ends of that gauge if it’s meant for David Tracy.
How about the “Its night and you’re driving with only the DRL’s on warning?”
As of 2022 model year, it’s now a requirement in Canada or have automatic headlights.
I hate the cars where the instrument panel lights work without the headlights on, causes me to drive in the dark without headlights
After reading the comments on a recent article here about whether or not a prominent, physical switch was really necessary now for headlights, I decided to give the automatic headlights on two of my vehicles a try. My ’09 Grand Cherokee has no indicator on the cluster to tell you if the headlights are on, but the instrument panel lights don’t seem to be separate from the headlights, so I guess that’s meant to be an indicator of sorts. The ’21 Wrangler does have a little indicator that illuminates when the headlights are on, which is good because the instrument panel lights function separately from the headlights in automatic mode. There are plenty of times when I feel better driving with the headlights on, but the sensor says otherwise — so I’m back to manual headlight operation.
“I spent much of the time trying to get them to turn their lights on to no avail. But, how does that even happen?”
Drugs. Alcohol. Octogenarians driving past their prime.
Yay! I’m happy to set up a launchpad for a better joke than mine!
Thank you for teeing it up! This is a team effort. 😀
And a thank you to Mercedes for the COTD.
Flatulence detection: serious funny business. 🙂
I’d like a rage gauge for the driver.
It would be entertaining.
“I hit calm down or pull over twice on this mornings commute.”
It shouldn’t be too difficult to parse the heart rate data from the driver’s Apple watch and set thresholds for alerts: over 100BPM, over 140BPM, under 60BPM, etc.
OTOH at no point in history has a stressed person ever calmed down when told to calm down, so this might just result in smashed infotainment screens. 🙂
I’d settle for oil pressure, temp, etc gauges that are actually accurate, not dumbed down to “OK” or “not OK”
The sad thing is a lot of data is available from the “ECU” in modern-ish cars, sometimes buried in layers of screen menus or available with a cheap Bluetooth OBD2 reader and an app like “Torque” on your cell phone.
I wish I could stick an airplane engine monitor in a car. It’s a lot of cool data
One gauge I don’t understand why it don’t exist on a car, is the total count of rotations of the engine. Airplanes and helicopters have one (since these engines are used at quasi constant RPM, it’s labeled flight Time). But I could see the interest of putting in parallel the number of rotations and the total distance when buying and old car.
Some vehicles have a kinda proxy, an engine operation hours gauge, for when distance traveled isn’t the best indicator of use – fleet vehicles and racing motorcycles come to mind.
All Chryslers of the last ten or fifteen years, maybe more, have an engine hours gauge in the menu of the digital cluster between the speedo and tach.
OK I didn’t knew, but a car engine is used with much bigger RPM variations. Still useful but I’m not sure about precision. Is it RPM it measure or really hours?
The timing belt and serpentine belt elapsed life gauges already exist. It’s not the most accurate, but it does the job. It’s the odometer.
What we really need a built in a maintenance log, because most people don’t keep a small notebook in the glovebox like they should. We already have the computer built in, why not have a screen where we can record maintenance events?
A connected app would work nicely, too. It would be great if it shared data with the onboard computer so you always have access to the records. The HondaLink app is nice, but it’s very. basic. It would be greatly enhanced by a trip log, and a fuel, consumables and maintenance log.
One reason why you can have confidence buying a 50 year old aircraft is that many come with extensive maintenance logs, and some even come with usage logs. Imagine the same for cars.
Our 2016 Sienna has this in the EnTune system. It’s honestly more of a pain to use then me just writing everything in the service manual. But then, I’m a guy with spreadsheets of maintenance and operating costs, and stacks of receipts for all car work.
> how about a carbon monoxide gauge? Every winter, news publications write about people who shut down or leave cars in snowstorms out of fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. Those people sometimes end up dead or in the hospital, but what if your car had a way to tell you about cabin carbon monoxide?
Maybe it could automatically open the windows or sunroof if the CO level is too high?