On a snowmobile, as well as on any other vehicle, the instrument panel, dash or yet the dial kits are often an element forgotten by buyers when they estimate the vehicle. Of course, it is less important than the engine power or the suspension comfort; still, when we think about one or two particular models, we may consider the instrument panel optional features to help us determine our final choice.
With the arrival of the digital gauge, a mass of new functionalities more or less important for the average snowmobiler are now offered. While in some ranges of vehicles we find an impressive quantity of data and functionalities, others offer only the minimum. Thus there are some functionalities that should be on all the instrument panels offered by the snowmobile manufacturers.
Tachometer and odometer
The tachometer is naturally on all the instrument panels while the odometer usually is there too. A long time ago, each one was analog (with hands) but today, they are digital indicators and sometimes, they are combined (digital/analog).
Trip odometer (daily odometer)
Since many years, the trip odometer is almost on all the snowmobile models. This functionality indicates the mileage since the last reset. Usually you use it to know the mileage of a day, a trip or between two tankfuls. While most of the models offered today come with this functionality, only the most luxurious models usually offer a dual stage trip odometer… Why would we need a dual stage trip odometer ? Well, let us say that you would like to know the mileage between two tankfuls while keeping the mileage since the beginning of your ride; the use of a dual stage trip odometer will make the task easier… For the manufacturer, the addition of a second odometer to the «programming» of the odometers would probably not be expensive, but for many snowmobilers, it would be very useful.
How many times have I been late coming home because I had lost my sense of time riding my snowmobile??? I cannot really tell, but my spouse could probably answer if you ask her… Ok, let us move on.. Some dial models now have a built-in clock. I personally find this functionality very useful when I ride. Indeed, it is hard to look at my watch when I am riding in the trails… Just a look at the gauge and I know if I am late or not…
Even if some snowmobiles are still equipped with mechanical gauge fixed on the fuel cap, more and more models offer a digital fuel gauge right in the instrument panel. No matter the mecanism, it is important to understand the data given by this indicator. Indeed, as for a car, this gauge gives only an approximative value. If the low fuel light comes on, you should know how much fuel is still in the reservoir when the light comes on. Then, you will be able to determine how many kilometers you can still ride before you run out of gas.
Ergonomy and easy data access and reading
Even if the gauge shows all the information required, it does not mean it is the best gauge for the snowmobiler. Indeed, the information must be easy to consult specially when we are riding. The digits must be big enough so that we can read them at a glance. The gauge positioning is also important. The pilot must be able to see the gauge without having his sight obstructed by the steering column or the handlebar, for example. The gauge must be protected from bad weather as much as possible. The indicators are also often equipped with buttons that allow you to modify the data that are displayed. For example, with this type of buttons, you can go from the total odometer to the trip odometer to the clock. If this switch is easy to operate when the snowmobile is stopped, it becomes very hazardous to use it when the snowmobile is running. In this case, the manufacturer should plan a button on the handlebar that would let us go from one data to another and still keep our hands on the handlebar.
Atmospheric pressure, recording and other gadgets
Today gauge often offers complementary data (as the atmospheric pressure) and advanced functions as the recording of values displayed by the instruments when we are riding. Even if they are useful for the snowmobilers who are looking for the optimal set up, these functionalities are almost unuseful for the average snowmobilers. Before putting money in this type of optional features, ask yourself if it is really necessary.
It is true that during the last years, the manufacturers corrected some aspects by offering larger gauge but often the characters inside the gauge are rather small. When we ride our snowmobile, particularly when the trails are bumpy, it becomes hard to read the speedometer at a glance, for example. The size of the characters, the choice of colors and the ergonomy are factors that influence the easy reading in all situations.
In summary, the instrument panels are often a neglected element until we are seated on our snowmobile in the trail. A minimum group of functionalities that should be on all panels today should include, in my opinion, the speedometer, the tachometer, the clock, the fuel gauge and a dual stage trip odometer.
Have a great season !