AskDefine | Define dashboard

Dictionary Definition



1 protective covering consisting of a panel to protect people from the splashing water or mud etc. [syn: splashboard, splasher]
2 instrument panel on an automobile or airplane containing dials and controls

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A panel under the windscreen of a motor car or aircraft, containing indicator dials, compartments, and sometimes controls; originally a protection against the weather
  2. a graphical user interface in the form of a dashboard


panel under the windscreen of a motor car or aircraft

Extensive Definition

A dashboard, dash, and sometimes fascia (chiefly in British English) is a control panel located under the windshield of an automobile. It contains instrumentation and controls pertaining to operation of the vehicle. During the design phase of an autombile, the dashboard or instrument panel may be abbreviated to IP.
Originally, a dashboard was the upturned screen of wood or leather placed on the front of a horse-drawn carriage, sleigh or other vehicle that protected the driver from mud, debris, water and snow thrown up by the horse's hooves.

Types of dashboards

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 in the appropriate location. Open wheeled racing 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, but nevertheless larger machines sometimes have enough room for items such as audio equipment and GPS navigation.

Dashboard and centre 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.

Padded dashboards and safety

Padded dashboards were advocated in the 1940s by car safety pioneer Claire L. Straith
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.
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 1990s, airbags became a common fitment on dashboards, and are mandatory in some countries.

Dashboard items

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, fuel gauge, and indicators such as a gear shift position, seat belt warning light, and engine malfunction light. Later came heating and ventilation controls and vents, lighting controls, and audio equipment. In more modern cars, automotive navigation systems are mounted in the dashboard.

Audio equipment

The first audio component other than a radio was a monophonic phonograph option on some Chrysler cars well before the cassette or eight-track tape players, which could only be operated when the car was stopped. Graphic equalizers and controls for increased bass came next, and finally CD players.
The audio system controls (such as 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 glovebox is often found on the passenger side, and sometimes on both sides.

Fashion in instrumentation

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 practise. 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.


dashboard in German: Armaturenbrett
dashboard in French: Tableau de bord
dashboard in Italian: Cruscotto
dashboard in Japanese: ダッシュボード (自動車)
dashboard in Dutch: Dashboard
dashboard in Polish: Deska rozdzielcza
dashboard in Portuguese: Dashboard
dashboard in Swedish: Instrumentbräda
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