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What is a Car Speedometer?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 28/11/2023

A car speedometer is a simple yet crucial device that gauges and displays your vehicle speed. It tells you how fast your car is running and allows you to adjust the speed according to the speed limits, weather conditions and traffic.

By driving at the right speed, you can avoid speeding fines and ensure your safety and that of others on the road. It is safe to say that a speedometer helps you adhere to driving rules and be a responsible vehicle driver on public roads.

However, did you know that this seemingly simple device comes in 2 different types and has evolved over the decades to show more than just your vehicle speed?

In this article, you will learn all about speedometers, their evolution, types, and functionalities.

The Evolution of Speedometer

As cars became more technologically advanced, so did the speedometers. From simple analogue speedometers to advanced digital displays, speedometers provide drivers with crucial information about the vehicle.

The early speedometers were mechanical. A cable attached from the wheels to the metre displayed the speed. However, these speedometers suffered from inaccuracy and were often impacted by changes in tire size.

Then came the electric speedometers. These speedometers used an electrical system to gauge vehicle speed instead of a mechanical cable. This led to more accuracy than the mechanical counterparts. Digital speedometers began to appear in the 1970s. While these speedometers showed only the speed, they were better than the previous designs.

In today’s time, digital speedometers are common. Many cars have dynamic and vibrant displays that provide a wealth of information. The development of cruise control systems further enhanced the driving experience. Their integration with the speedometer can help you maintain an optimum speed and ensure safety.

What are the Types of Speedometers?

Speedometers are of two types- analog or mechanical and digital or electric. The working mechanisms of both are discussed below:

Analog Speedometer

Analog speedometers are also known as mechanical speedometers. They display your car’s speed by pointing a needle on the dial. This needle is connected to the outer shaft of the gearbox and has several parts working in combination.

The working of an analog metre starts when the driveshaft spins your car’s wheels and the attached speedometer cable.

As soon as the cable moves, the magnet within the speed cup also starts spinning.

The rotating magnet creates a magnetic field inside the cup. This makes the speed cup rotate at the same speed and direction to reach the magnet.

However, the tightening of the hairspring restrains the rotation of the speed cup.

Due to this the cup can only move a little distance and allows the pointer up the dial to indicate the speed of your car.

The faster you drive, the faster the cable spins, the faster the magnet rotates, the bigger the force on the speed cup and the more the pointer is pulled up the dial.

Analog speedometers are combined with odometers that determine the distance travelled.

Advantages of Analog Speedometer

Here is the list of advantages of analog speedometers:

Durable: Analog speedometers are less vulnerable to malfunction caused by electrical problems due to the absence of any intricate electrical parts. This makes analog metres more efficient and durable.

Cost effective: Manufacturing and repairing analog metres is more affordable for the manufacturers and consumers respectively. This makes them a cost-effective option.

Simple to understand: Analog metres are user-friendly for all types of drivers as they display the speed using a familiar needle and dial system.

Instant response to changing speed: Analog speedometers respond instantly to speed changes and provide you with real-time speed data.

Disadvantages of analog speedometer

Analog speedometers have the following drawbacks:

Less accurate: When it comes to accuracy, analog speedometers are less precise than digital speedometers. However, despite readings being less accurate, they are still within the acceptable range.

Less visible at night: Backlighting in analog speedometers helps in visibility. However, it is not as bright as in digital speedometers. You may find it challenging to figure out your car speed at night.

Limited data: Analog metres usually indicate only your car speed and do not provide additional data on navigation or the vehicle’s performance.

Lack of customisation: Analog speedometers are available in a standardised design and lack customisation options.

Digital speedometer

Technologically advanced cars have digital speedometers. Since these speedometers rely on electronic systems, they are also known as electrical speedometers.

Digital speedometers work on chips and sensors and lack any mechanical connections.

The magnets attached to the outer shaft cross the magnetic sensors placed nearby.

Every time the magnet crosses the sensors, an electric pulse is generated within the circuit.

The electronic circuit measures how fast the pulses arrive and changes this into speed.

You then see the speed on your car’s LED display.

Since a digital speedometer counts the number of wheel rotations, it also provides an odometer function.

Advantages of digital speedometer

Digital speedometers are usually the preferred choice of many drivers as they offer the following advantages:

More accurate: The readings in digital speedometers are highly accurate. This makes it ideal to know the precise speed information. Moreover, digital speedometers are less likely to be impacted by tire size changes or other factors.

Enhanced visibility: Digital speedometers offer you enhanced visibility during different times of the day. Hence, you can gather insights into the information on the screen without straining your eyes.

Choice of customisation: Digital speedometers offer more customisation options than analog metres. You can select different display modes and adjust brightness according to your preference.

Versatile: Besides speed, digital speedometers provide additional information about your car’s performance. This includes fuel efficiency, trip information and navigation details, engine temperature, etc.

Safer: Digital speedometers are significant improvements over analog metres in terms of safety. According to studies, drivers look at digital gauges less frequently while driving.

Integration: Digital speedometers can be integrated with your car’s other electronic systems and enable features like collision warning and cruise control systems. This leads to enhanced road safety.

Disadvantages of digital speedometer

Despite their accuracy and other advantages, digital speedometers also have drawbacks that include:

Expensive: Digital speedometers with advanced features involve high manufacturing and repair costs. This increases the overall cost of the car.

Less visibility in sunlight: Bright sunlight can reduce visibility and make it difficult for you to read digital speedometers.

Maintenance costs: Replacing or repairing a digital speedometer can be costly as it requires professional service and advanced equipment.

Rely on power: Digital speedometers depend on your car’s electrical system. So, electrical malfunction or failure can impact their working and leave you without any speed data.

How to Maintain Car Speed?

Now that you know the speedometer's meaning and how it works, it is also important to accurately read the car speedometer’s measure and maintain optimum car speed.

Here are a few tips you can follow to drive your car at the right speed:

Know the Speedometer Basics

A traditional speedometer comprises a needle placed at the speedometer’s centre.

The movement of this needle is clockwise and points at your car’s speed.

The numbers indicating speed are represented around the metre in kilometres per hour (km/h) and miles per hour (mph) in two rows.

Make sure you understand which measurement unit is displayed by your speedometer.

Glance at the Speedometer

Sometimes your focus may be on the road and the mirrors until you realise you forgot to look at the speedometer and exceeded the speed limit. Hence it is crucial to glance at the speedometer every 5 minutes when driving.

Checking your car speedometer reading regularly in between can help you make required changes in speed to avoid fines for exceeding the speed limit. Make it a habit to glance at your speedometer regularly and soon you will adapt.

However, ensure not to look away from the road for much time as this can lead to a mishap. Take a quick look at the four-wheeler speedometer and pay close attention to the road ahead.

Cruise Control

Modern-day cars have cruise control systems. It can play an essential role in maintaining the permissible speed limits. You can locate the cruise control button on the steering wheel in most cars.

If you do not find it, consult the manual to locate it. You can remove your feet from the accelerator after setting your car to a cruise control system. Your car will now maintain its speed. However, pay attention on the road as it reduces the reaction time.

Glance at the Speed Signs

The speed limit signs on the road tell you the speed at which you should be driving. Usually, these signs are placed at locations where the speed limit changes. Make sure you drive within the speed limit mentioned on the posted signs.

Change Measurement Units

Cars used internationally allow you to change measurement units in the speedometer. So, make sure you adjust these units as per the standard used in the country you drive. You can take help from your car’s manual to change the settings.

Do not Try to Keep Up with Other Cars

When driving, you might be tempted to keep up with other cars. This may lead to overspeeding. Hence, it is best to drive at your own pace and not to follow others. Overspeeding does not make you a good driver. Be patient while on the road, especially if you are a new driver.

Wrapping Up

Speedometers play a crucial role in automotive technology. Based on their function and mechanism, car speedometers can be analog or digital. While analog metres comprise a needle that points towards your car’s speed, a digital speedometer shows the speed and other information on your car’s LED display.

The speedometer’s evolution from a mechanical gauge to an advanced digital display is driven by the desire to make driving safer and more efficient. Keep in mind the points to maintain the right speed. The simple tips will ensure you and others stay safe on the road.

Besides the use of a speedometer, another essential component of road safety is car insurance. It is a robust tool that provides financial security against unforeseen liabilities like damages or injuries to third parties or own damages.

With four-wheeler insurance by your side, you can cover yourself against potential risks and hit the roads with confidence. At Tata AIG, you can avail yourself of customised car insurance plans at affordable prices. You can compare car insurance on our website and choose the best policy for your prized possession.


Where is the speedometer on a car?

A speedometer on a car is usually positioned in the front of the driving seat at the car’s dashboard. The position helps the driver to easily see the information displayed.

What is the use of a speedometer?

A speedometer is a device installed in vehicles used to measure and display their speed to the driver. It is used to assist the driver in making timely adjustments in speed to ensure safety and avoid speeding fines.

What is a speedometer?

A speedometer of a car measures and displays the speed at which it is moving. It plays a crucial role in providing drivers with real-time data while driving and allows them to take prompt actions to ensure safe driving. There are mainly two types of speedometers that work in different ways-Analog and Digital.

How does a speedometer work?

The working of a speedometer depends on its type. While analog metres comprise a needle that points towards your car’s speed, a digital speedometer shows the speed and other information on your car’s LED display.

Do speedometers always display the accurate speed?

Speedometers usually display the accurate speed of your car under normal driving conditions. However, mechanical issues, tire size, etc. can impact their accuracy. With regular calibration and maintenance, you can ensure the precision of the device.

Who invented the electric speedometer?

The electric speedometer was invented by Josip Belusic in 1888. This speedometer worked on electrical power and before being used in cars, it was used in railroading to measure the speed of the trains.

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