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The dashboard of a Bentley Continental GTC

A dashboard (also called dash, dial and switch housing or, chiefly in British English, fascia) is a control panel located under the windshield of an automobile. It contains the instrumentation and controls pertaining to the operation of the vehicle. During the design phase of an automobile, the dashboard or instrument panel may be abbreviated as "IP".

Originally, a dashboard was an upturned screen of wood or leather, placed on the front of a horse-drawn carriage, sleigh or other vehicle, that protected the driver from the mud, debris, water or snow thrown up by the horse's hooves.[1][2]

Contents

Types

A Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle dash

Lawn mowers, farm tractors, and earlier automobiles sometimes have little more than a steering wheel and some form of ignition or power switch.

Custom-built racing cars often simply have a piece of sheet metal that forms the dashboard. Whenever a new gauge needs to be added, a hole is drilled into the appropriate location. Open wheel cars often have no space for a dashboard, so the instrument cluster is integrated into the center of the steering wheel.

Motorcycles and mopeds have a compressed version of car dashboards, nevertheless, larger machines sometimes have enough room for items such as audio equipment and Global Positioning Systems.

Center console layout

Increasingly, manufacturers are experimenting with moving all display portions to the center console. Various arguments are put forward for this, including cost savings when constructing both left- and right-hand-drive versions.

Padding and safety

Padded dashboards were advocated in the 1940s by car safety pioneer Claire L. Straith.[3]

Under the aegis of a safety program initiated by Robert McNamara (see The Fog of War documentary), padded "safety" dashboards were introduced in 1956 by Ford under the name "Lifeguard". Consumers showed little interest.[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, and are mandatory in most countries.

Dashboard items

Dashboard instruments displaying various car and engine conditions

Items located on the dashboard 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 a gear shift position, seat belt warning light, parking brake engagement warning light[5] and an engine malfunction light. There are also indicators for low fuel, low oil pressure, low battery, low tire pressure (on newer cars), and faults in the air bag (SRS) system. Heating and ventilation controls and vents, lighting controls and audio equipment came later on. In more modern cars, automotive navigation systems are mounted directly into the dashboard.

Audio equipment

The first audio component, other than a radio, was a monophonic phonograph option on some Chrysler cars, which could only be operated when the car was stopped. Eight-track tape players, then cassette players, graphic equalizers and controls for increased bass came next and finally, Compact Disc players.

The audio system controls for the radio and CD player may also be on the dashboard, although volume and tuning, for example, may be controlled from a stalk beside the steering wheel.

The top of a dashboard may contain speakers for an audio system and vents for the heating and air conditioning system. A glove compartment is often found on the passenger side and sometimes, on both sides.

Fashion in instrumentation

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 into their instrument clusters, showing fuel mileage in real time, although this continues only on certain models.

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. In recent years, fewer manufacturers have included voltmeters or oil pressure gauges in their dashboard instrument clusters.

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ "Dictionary entry for dashboard". Merriam–Webster. http://m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=dashboard. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Puzzler Answer: Dashboard Definition". Car Talk. 2002-03-09. http://www.cartalk.com/content/puzzler/transcripts/200211/answer.html. Retrieved 2006-10-11. 
  3. ^ Straith Clinic History
  4. ^ Iacocca: An Autobiography, chapter four
  5. ^ *Signal to Warn Driver that the Emergency Brake is Engaged, Popular Science monthly, February 1919, Unlabeled page, Scanned by Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=7igDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PT3

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