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How does an Instrument Panel work?

For this week’s How’s This Work, we’re going to make sure you understand everything that’s on your instrument panel. This isn’t a look at all of the different warning lights or icons, but a look at the four big parts of your gauge cluster. Chances are you might know one or two of these, or maybe even all of them, but we thought we’d make sure you know exactly what each one is and what it’s trying to tell you.

[ LAST WEEK: What is a Truck Cab? ]


So for starters, the most important and probably most obvious one is… the speedometer. It’s generally found front and center or slightly to the right. The highest number depends on your make and model, but it is a needle that accurately represents how fast you’re going.


This one is less obvious and perhaps much less known. Generally speaking, it displays the vehicle’s revolutions per minute AKA RPM. It is also showing you how fast your vehicle is going, but in a different way – it displays how fast your engine is turning. If you’re driving an automatic, the only thing you really need to pay attention to is making sure you don’t enter the red.


The odometer is probably the one gauge we mention the most often. The days it’s almost always display digitally as a 6-digit number. The number represents how many kilometres your vehicle has been driven total. It’s important to keep track of this so that you know when to get regularly-scheduled maintenance like oil changes.

Fuel Gauge

Finally, the fuel gauge. Perhaps this is actually the most important and obvious. It depicts how much fuel you have left, helping to make sure you never run out of gas and get stranded. This is an important one to keep track of!

Hopefully this helps you out a bit in understanding your vehicle and, in particular, its instrument panel.


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