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Mechanical vs. Electrical Gauges

By Speedway Motors

  Created 2014

A gauge is a gauge right? Wrong. There are a few differences between what normally comes in your vehicle and what you can install from an aftermarket aspect. We will try to help shed some light on the debate of Mechanical vs. Electrical Gauges.
Speedway 5 Gauge Set

You’ll hear people say that mechanical gauges like this set from Omega Kustoms is the best way to go, due to accuracy, no need for a constant power supply, and the 270° range of movement on the needle. (Granted, the water temp and oil pressure are electric in this set, but if you think about it, would you really want a pressure line being routed into your vehicle cabin?) While these claims are indeed good reasons to maintain a mechanical gauge, one downfall of the mechanical gauge is that in the end, it is mechanical. It needs a direct connection to the function it is representing. This means that behind your dash you have cables, lines, and tubes all running to their respective gauge.

Omega Kustoms Tan 5 Gauge Set

On the other hand, you will also have people tell you that an electrical gauge is preferred. Smaller by nature, these feature either a 90° or 180° sweep of the needle, making them slightly harder to read quickly. That being said, since they are smaller and electrically driven, they take up less space and can be placed in non-traditional locations. These are the gauges you’ll find in pods up on the A-Pillar, or in plates located where A/C vents used to be.

Longacre Stepper Tachometer

There is also a third option steadily chewing up a section of the market. Stepper gauges are sort of a cross breed of the two previous options. Featuring a full 270° sweep of the needle, good backlighting (usually LED), and a host of other potential features such as programmable shift indicators, in-gauge turn signal lights, and integrated warning lights. They are also usually shallower than a standard gauge and lack the large connections on the back indicative of mechanical gauges, allowing them to be mounted in a wider variety of locations. Speedway Motors carries options from both Longacre and AutoMeter.

In the end, proper installation and wiring or connections will make any newer gauge reliable. What style of gauge you choose depends entirely on you and what your plans for your project are.

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