Bentley Continental GTC 011

The dashboard of a Bentley Continental GTC car

Hayabusa Dash

A Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle dash

Lightmatter Dashboard

Dashboard instruments displaying various car and engine conditions

Dashboard (PSF)

Carriage dashboard

A dashboard (also called dash, instrument panel, or fascia) is a control panel placed in front of the driver of an automobile, housing instrumentation and controls for operation of the vehicle.

The word originally applied to a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris "dashed" (thrown) up by the wheels and horses' hooves.[1]

Dashboard items Edit

Items located on the dashboard at first included the steering wheel and the instrument cluster. The instrument cluster pictured to the right contains gauges such as a speedometer, tachometer, odometer and fuel gauge, and indicators such as gearshift position, seat belt warning light, parking-brake-engagement warning light[2] and an engine-malfunction light. There may also be indicators for low fuel, low oil pressure, low tire pressure and faults in the airbag (SRS) system. Heating and ventilation controls and vents, lighting controls, audio equipment and automotive navigation systems are also mounted on the dashboard.

The top of a dashboard may contain vents for the heating and air conditioning system and speakers for an audio system. A glove compartment is commonly located on the passenger's side. There may also be an ashtray and a cigarette lighter which can provide a power outlet for other low-voltage appliances.[3]

Padding and safetyEdit

Padded dashboards were advocated in the 1940s by car safety pioneer Claire L. Straith.[4]

One of the safety enhancements of the 1970s was the widespread adoption of padded dashboards. The padding is commonly polyurethane foam, while the surface is commonly either polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or leather in the case of luxury models.

In the early and mid 1990s, airbags became a common feature of steering wheels and dashboards.

Fashion in instrumentationEdit

Lancia beta interior

Stylised dashboard from a 1980s Lancia Beta

In the 1940s through the 1960s, American car manufacturers and their imitators designed unusually-shaped instruments on a dashboard laden with chrome and transparent plastic, which could be less readable, but was often thought to be more stylish. Sunlight could cause a bright glare on the chrome, particularly for a convertible.

With the coming of the LED in consumer electronics, some manufacturers used instruments with digital readouts to make their cars appear more up to date, but this has faded from practice. Some cars use a head-up display to project the speed of the car onto the windscreen in imitation of fighter aircraft, but in a far less complex display.

Manufacturers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz have included fuel-economy gauges in some instrument clusters, showing fuel mileage in real time. The ammeter was the gauge of choice for monitoring the state of the charging system until the 1970s. Later it was replaced by the voltmeter. Many vehicles have warning lights instead of voltmeters or oil pressure gauges in their dashboard instrument clusters.

Gallery Edit

See also Edit


  1. "Dictionary entry for dashboard". Merriam–Webster. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.
  2. *Signal to Warn Driver that the Emergency Brake is Engaged, Popular Science monthly, February 1919, Unlabeled page, Scanned by Google Books:
  3. E.g., a USB phone charger
  4. Straith Clinic History

External linksEdit

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