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When were Warning Lights introduced into vehicles?

What car manufactureer introduced warning lights and when?

The first car that I remember that had warning lights was the 1949 Nash. The oil pressure and ammeter gauges were replaced with the warning lights.

Correction–the 1948 Hudson had warning lights. It beat the Nash by a year.

Warning lights definitely have their place. In all or none situations, OD, transfer case and the like nothing is better. Don’t forget the persistent seat buckle light. It’s enough of a pain to keep me buckled. I would say it gradually became more common as more of these needs arose. As far as electric system and oil pressure, though some would prefer the gauge, let’s face it, most drivers don’t know how to read them and wouldn’t recognize a problem if they saw it. Big red lights and buzzing tends to get people’s attention. That’s where we are at.

…and so began the slow decline of mechanical intelligence, leaving the general populace of sheeple unable to check oil, change spark plugs, or even open the hoods of their cars.

Although we have been getting more warning lights as time progresses, I’m not all that offended. I appreciate knowing when my door is ajar and my computer even tells me which one. the ABS light highlights a problem that I might not even notice, as does the air bag light.

Most cars in the '50’s had 4 gauges; oil pressure, amp meter or volt meter, temp, and gas gauge. By the '60’s most cars had dropped the oil pressure and amp gauges in favor of idiot lights. That left the temp gauge and gas gauge.

…and so began the slow decline of mechanical intelligence, leaving the general populace of sheeple unable to check oil, change spark plugs, or even open the hoods of their cars.

Do you really think people worked on their cars in the 1930s? I doubt it.

If you had to graph the amount of DIY people have done in various decades, how would it look? If I am an anecdote, I tried wrenching as a teen in the 1980s, then heard cars were too complex (computers!), and never touched a car until this year. 1990s and 2000s were a black box for me. Now, I have $700 worth of tools and love trying new prev.maint. projects.

I can give one reason. Internet. Forums.

I wonder if I am a trend that has started since 2006+

Ford cars introduced warning lights for oil pressure and battery discharge in 1954. Chevrolet follwed suit in 1955 and Plymouth swtiched to warning lights for oil pressure and battery dischage in 1956. I do remember that the 1962 MG Midget had gauges for everything except battery, but used a warning light for battery discharge. My dad purchased a new 1963 Studebaker Lark and one thing that impressed him was that the Studebaker had a full set of gauges. On the other hand, the VW Beetles through the 1960 models had no gauges–not even a fuel gauge. When the car started to run out of gas, you kicked a lever down by the accelerator and switched it to reserve.

TPMS can be pretty useful.
I had a warning a couple weeks ago about a tire being low. Found the low one and filled all back up to even them out. 2 weeks later the light comes back on so I had it looked at; a nail had gotten in the tread and caused a slow leak in 1 of my tires.
I don’t check the pressure all that often, so who knows how low the tire would have gotten otherwise if the TPMS hadn’t kicked on(probably a flat that would have resulted in me being late for work or needing a ride home).

I’m not knocking warning lights at all. The more information the better. I just think that cars that only have warning lights and no gauges worsen the ‘set it and forget it’ attitude that a lot of people have with cars, and make people less aware of what’s going on with the vehicle, even cause drivers to not take an interest at all.

Even worse in my opinion is the ‘faux’ oil pressure gauge on some Ford vehicles–where it pretty much reads either great or nothing… basically an idiot light in disguise. “My oil pressure went from fine to nothing in a second?? What the heck happened?”

How many problems would be prevented if drivers had full gauges and knew to check them? You’d notice oil pressure dropping, temperature climbing, or battery voltage not being all that it could be, long before the situation turns catastrophic in most cases.

I had a 1960 Ford company car which had all gauges. The next car, a 1962 Pontiac, had the first idiot lights, as I recall. It had a gas gauge and a temperature gauge only.

“I had a 1960 Ford company car which had all gauges.”

That company car was undoubtedly a full-size model.
The 1960 Falcon had idiot lights for oil pressure and the charging system, with gauges only for gas and temperature.

I have a 75 cadillac.
The only gauges it has is a speedo and gas gauge.
The rest is an entire strip of lights about 2 feet long.
I think it was more for “technology” in this case.
Lights instead of gauges… Ohhhhhh thats soooo fancy…
Do you know what i mean?

The best idea is a light/gauge combo. It’s nice to know when that temp. light comes on just how hot it is, or the oil light you know how low the oil pressure actually is. I see my company’s new Chev van has a nice dash gauge cluster like that.

Oblivion, I understand your point but I’m not sure that gauges would be better. I’m not sure most people would bother to learn what they mean. We’ve got posters who can’t even check their gas mileage.

To me the thesis that if cars still had gauges people would learn to read them is analogous to the statements by the financial experts that I see in interviews on TV. They talk on about how crucial it is for working people to understand interest rates, amortizations, investment, and on & on. The fact is that most people aren’t cut out for that stuff. But most have other skills and knowledge that the financial analysts do not, like perhaps medicine or mechanical aptitude.

Because financial vehicles are available does not mean people will learn to understand them. I would argue that, similarly, of cars had gauges most people would never learn what they mean.


That’s a fine looking German Shepherd you have. I have one, too. Well, maybe half of one. We’re not too sure about her heritage (rescue dog). Ours has the ears of a 150 # dog on a 50 # frame, though.


Thanks, she is a rescue mix as well. (shepherd/lab) 80lbs. very strong.