Understanding Your Tachometer: What Does It Do?

New cars comes with all sorts of bells and whistles, replacing many of the gauges we once depended on. In many models, especially those with automatic transmissions, the tachometer is going to the wayside, leaving many to scratch their heads when they see it in other cars. Understanding your tachometer is not difficult, but it is something every good car owner should know.

According to National Public Radio’s Car Talk, the tachometer is essential, even for those that don’t drive stick. Also called a “rev-counter” or “RPM gauge,” the tachometer measures the revolutions per minute (RPM) of the engine’s crankshaft. In lay terms, the tachometer tells you how much your engine is working. When idling, it will sit between 0.5 and 2.0 (x1000) RPM, while at top speeds it may “red line.”

Understanding your Tachometer in a 2014 GMC Sierra DenaliFor those with manual transmissions, the tachometer lets you know when your engine is in its peak power output, showing you when to shift. This varies depending on driving conditions, and should be different if you climb a hill, accelerate onto the highway, or go off-road.

What about an automatic transmission? A tachometer lets you know when your car is not performing properly. For example, if your car is idling at high RPMs, that can be a serious sign for concern. Also, if you drive in low gears or tow, it is important to pay attention to your engine’s output.

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