As you may suspect, car manufacturers usually must appeal to the largest customer base possible if they want to turn a profit. To do so, they include just a few stock gauges on the cars, trucks, and SUVs that leave assembly lines. While most customers want to see their speed, engine temperature, and mileage record, only a few find other information useful. If your vehicle’s stock gauges do not give you the details you need about your vehicle’s performance, you may want to install some aftermarket car gauges.

Stock or OEM Instrument Clusters

Regardless of the type of vehicle you drive, your stock instrument cluster likely tells you some important information. That is, you probably have a speedometer and odometer. Your vehicle may also tell you general information about oil pressure and engine speed. This has not always been true, however. In the past, many vehicles only featured warning lights that illuminated when something went wrong.

While OEM instrument clusters have come a long way in recent years, they are far from perfect. In fact, most gauges only tell you a bit of information about your vehicle. That is, you may be able to tell that a certain measurement falls within a wide range. A gauge’s safe zone, though, may have a considerable amount of leeway.

While keeping an eye on gauges that give you broad information is not a bad idea, you may want more. You may be looking for better performance rather than simply monitoring whether your vehicle is about to break down. If so, installing aftermarket gauges may give you the insight you crave.

Minimal Upgrades

There are a variety of aftermarket gauges you can install on your vehicle. Each one gives you important information about your car’s overall performance. Not every aftermarket gauge, though, is right for every driver’s needs.

If you are looking for a place to start, you may want to draw some inspiration from racing enthusiasts. Often, racers supplement their existing car gauges with aftermarket oil pressure and water temperature gauges. By going this route, you have accurate information about sensitive systems. You can also use gauge readings to notice mechanical issues before they become serious problems.

Because aftermarket oil pressure and water temperature gauges are often inexpensive, investing in some gives you affordable peace of mind. Further, if you have modified your vehicle, you may need a better way to monitor new systems. Either way, you can likely get the aftermarket gauges you need to keep tabs on your vehicle’s performance without breaking the bank.

Mechanical and Electrical Gauges

Regardless of the type of gauge you want to install on your vehicle, you have an important choice to make. Should you choose a mechanical or electrical aftermarket gauge? When weighing mechanical vs. electrical gauges, there are some important considerations to keep in mind.

Mechanical gauges have been around for decades. These gauges have a direct connection that relays pneumatic information. That is, a mechanical gauge may need a pressurized tube connected to your vehicle’s engine to give you reliable information. Electric gauges, on the other hand, function differently. Rather than featuring a direct connection, electric gauges operate off a sensor.

Which style of gauge is best for your vehicle likely depends on your goals. Still, each type of gauge has both advantages and drawbacks.

Here are some benefits of installing an aftermarket mechanical gauge:

  • Affordability
  • Fewer wires
  • Heavy-duty construction

Electric gauges have some obvious benefits as well, including:

  • Smaller size
  • Lighter weight
  • Easier installation

In the past, automotive enthusiasts believed mechanical gauges to offer better accuracy than their electrical counterparts. That is no longer the case. Provided you purchase an electrical gauge from a reliable manufacturer, you can likely assume it is as accurate as a mechanical alternative.

Other Options

When it comes to upgrading your vehicle’s instrument cluster to include aftermarket car gauges, the options are seemingly endless. Not only can you select gauges that monitor a variety of functions, but you can also choose the external finishes and interior lighting of each gauge. Whether you want to match your vehicle’s interior or choose something that offers a compelling contrast, you are likely to find the perfect aftermarket gauge for your car, truck or SUV.

The finishes available for aftermarket gauges are considerable. You also have some decisions to make when it comes to the gauge’s lighting. Some common options, of course, are LED and incandescent bulbs. Still, a growing number of aftermarket gauges have digital displays which often eliminate the need for internal illumination.


After you have decided on the mechanical or electrical gauge you want and chosen the right lighting and finish for it, you are ready to move on to installation. The first task you must accomplish is deciding where to locate your new aftermarket gauge. Picking a spot that allows you to easily read the gauge without obstructing your road view makes sense.

The process for installing your gauge depends on two components: the type of gauge and your model of vehicle. Generally, you should not drill into any structural parts of your car, truck, or SUV. You also need to think about power, as your gauge likely requires a 12-volt ignition line.

Final Thoughts on Aftermarket Gauges

Aftermarket gauges are often an effective strategy for supplementing your vehicle’s stock instrument cluster. Whether you want to get as much performance as possible out of your machine or simply want to minimize your chances of a catastrophic mechanical failure, installing an aftermarket gauge may be the right approach.

As with other components, aftermarket car gauges, vary in reliability and quality. If you have decided to install one on your vehicle, be sure you choose a well-known and highly rated manufacturer. Also, when installing your new gauge, take care not to damage existing systems. With the right tools, a quality gauge and a bit of effort, though, you can likely get the information you need to get the most out of your vehicle.

Find an AutoZone Near You

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