You’ve had your car for a while now and are starting to see some wear and tear on your car dash. Maybe you have minor issues such as accumulated dust or scratches. You might even have some major issues like broken buttons or lights. Today, car dashboards come with many hi-tech electronics and features. And it takes time to learn how to repair them when they break or replace them when they get worn out.
The dashboard is the most important part of the car for you as a driver. This is the control center of your car, so you need to keep up with its maintenance. Ignoring these electronics and features can compromise your comfort, and more importantly, your safety in the vehicle.
If your car is an older model that doesn't have many of the more updated safety and comfort features, such as GPS and Bluetooth, you can buy many of these cool gadgets at auto stores and online to add them onto your car dash and upgrade your car. It can be confusing when you are trying to figure out which features to add to your dashboard or how to repair and replace older parts. In order to make these decisions, you have to determine your needs and preferences for safety, comfort, and entertainment.
What Type of Features Are on Your Car Dash?
The features on your car dashboard serve several purposes. Some of them are there for your safety and some of them are for your entertainment. A few features boost your car’s performance when on the road. Others are just luxury features to make your ride more comfortable.
Your car dashboard has many safety features such as warning lights and alarm tones. The hazard lights button is a safety feature to use when you have to pull over during an emergency. The blind spot and rear view cameras show you the area surrounding your car and tell you when it is safe to change lanes. The check engine light comes on when there is something wrong with your engine. Many other lights on your car dash also turn on to tell you something is wrong. Finally, the fuel gauge on your dashboard helps you keep track of how much fuel you have in your car.
The Performance features on your car dash include buttons, lights, or gauges that tell you how your car is performing. For example, many new cars have an “Econ” button on the dash. This is to help you conserve fuel and is especially helpful when fuel is low. However, when driving on the interstate, it can decrease your car's performance. The odometer tells you how far your car has traveled in total, and if you have a resettable trip-odometer, it keeps track of the miles traveled between resets. This is useful when measuring fuel economy.
The entertainment system is also on the car dash. The radio, CD player (or cassette player if your car is vintage) plays music during your drive. The Bluetooth feature connects your phone so you can listen to your playlist and take phone calls hands-free. Small speakers are often located on the dashboard for sound enhancement. On newer cars, the screen on the dashboard may give you information about your radio, such as the song name, artist, etc. This screen also helps you navigate the entertainment system so you can skip songs, repeat songs, and increase or decrease the volume.
Great Add-on Electronics
You can also add many electronics to your car dashboard to make your drive smoother and safer. Today, many of these features come built-in with newer car models. However, if your car is older, you can easily mount them on your car dash to upgrade.
Many new cars come with a built-in GPS. However, if your car doesn’t have one, you can find them in many stores. They range from $80 to $300 and mount right onto your dashboard. You can purchase this sophisticated wide-screen GPS from Dell or this smaller sporty GPS from Walmart.
You can also find many different types of dashboard mounts for your GPS that range from $10 to $50. For example, this one from Amazon sticks to your car dashboard and has soft padding to protect the GPS. Or this sturdy mount from Sporty’s Pilot Shop that holds a Garmin GPS. Some mounts stick to your dashboard, some attach to your windshield with a suction cup system, and some hook onto your air vents. When shopping for a mount, keep your personal preferences and your GPS model in mind.
Heads up display (HUD)
Heads up displays (HUDs) range from $50 to $500 depending on their features. There are more basic HUDs like this one from Amazon which includes all the basic features and is easy to install. There are also more sophisticated HUDs like this one from HUDWAY Cast that mirrors your smartphone in front of you while you're driving so you can see the GPS and still keep your eyes on the road.
Handsfree adapters are a newer luxury and safety feature. They can be added onto your car dash if your car does not already come with built-in Bluetooth technology. They make it easy to connect your phone to the car using Bluetooth. This allows you to play music from your phone and take phone calls in your car handsfree. Handsfree adapters range from $20 to $100.
This handsfree adapter by Elecmall can be found at Walmart and is a cheap way to add a sleek electronic to your dashboard and get all the features of a hands-free adapter. This one from Belkin sold on Newegg is a more sophisticated handsfree adapter that also streams internet radio. These adapters connect to your car through the auxiliary port and are a great way to improve car safety and enjoy streaming music from your smartphone.
Many drivers who travel frequently for work and are on the roads constantly use radar detectors. Note that radar detectors are not legal in all states in the US, so make sure you verify that you can it one before purchasing one. If this is a device you need in your car, be ready to spend between $40 to $500 based on your needs and preferences.
For those on a budget, you can get this Cobra radar detector from Walmart that comes with a one-year warranty. For a more sophisticated radar detector, you can get this one from Escort that can be mounted onto your car dash.
Dashcams are the latest technology for improving car safety and can be easily mounted on your car dash. They allow you to see at all angles around your car including blind spots, and they record your driving in case of any accidents. This is especially useful when you get into an accident and need to find out precisely how it happened. With a dashcam, you'll have a video recording to see who was at fault.
This Garmin Dashcam on Amazon has all the standard features plus GPS that will record where you were during the accident. This Yi dashcam has a full HD widescreen LCD screen. These cameras have an emergency system that automatically saves all footage recorded seconds before and during an accident. They range in price from $50 to $500 depending on the features you select.
How to Care for Your Dashboard
Because of all the electronics in your car dash, it is important to know how to properly care for them and make them last. Most common dashboards are made from some type of plastic material. Some car dashes are made of vinyl or leather as well.
Basic steps to clean your car dash
The first step to cleaning your car dash is to wipe away all the dust. Use a cloth and some protectant spray or use dashboard wipes to get rid of the dust on the flat surfaces. Then, use a soft cleaning brush to clean the dust from the vents, knobs, and other nooks and crannies that are hard to clean. Use a glass cleaning spray to clean the screens on your dash. When caring for your plastic dashboard, make sure you use a cloth and dashboard polish to clean the dust and make your dashboard shine.
If your car dash needs more than just a cleaning, consider purchasing a repair kit or replacing your car dash cover. However, if you just need to get rid of dust and minor scratches, you can purchase cleaning materials and sprays at local stores or online. When purchasing these products, keep in mind the type of material your dashboard is made of.
Plastic car dash
Since most dashboards today are made of plastic, it is easy to find products to take care of your plastic car dash. This Armor All spray at Target helps clean dust and other debris from your dash. Spray the Armor All onto soft microfiber cleaning cloths like these to get the dust off your dash. You can also use these Armor All automotive surface cleaning wipes instead of a cloth and spray. To clean the vents and knobs, you can use this brush, which is specially designed for car vent cleaning.
Vinyl car dash
Some car dashboards are made of vinyl. For vinyl dashboards, use a soft cleaning cloth and vinyl cleaner to clean the dust and grime off the car dashboard. You can get cleaners like Meguiar's Heavy Duty Vinyl Cleaner to spray onto the cloth at Walmart. If the vinyl on your car has scratches or wear and tear, this vinyl conditioner from Lane's Professional Car Products can help restore it and make it shine again. If you are in a hurry, use these wipes from Walmart that are safe on vinyl. You can also use a soft auto vent brush like this one from Autogeek to clean the vents, knobs, and small crevices on your car dash without scratching it.
Leather car dash
Some luxury cars have parts of the dashboard covered in leather. It is important to take care of and protect this leather so it doesn’t begin to fade and tear over time. To make sure the leather parts of your car dash stay looking new, pour leather cleaner onto a rag and wipe down the leather. You can use this Armor All leather cleaner gel from Target to wipe away dust. Then use leather conditioner to keep the leather from getting dry and brittle over time. You can use this Lexon leather conditioner from Walmart, which comes in a convenient spray bottle. This will help maintain the luxurious feel of your car dash over time and help preserve the value of your car.
For daily care, keep these Armor All leather wipes from Walmart in your car at all times. If you see dust or other residues on your leather car dash, you can easily wipe it away with these. Also, use this Carrand 2-in-1 detail brush from Walmart to clean your vents. It is gentler on leather.
Wooden car dash
Some luxury cars have a wooden car dash and steering wheel. This wood is often covered with a layer varnish. You can use Armor All auto wipes to clean the dust off this surface or a soft cloth and all-purpose spray. However, if your wood trim is starting to fade, you need to polish and wax it to bring it back to life. Pour some of this dashboard wood polish found on eBay onto a soft cloth and wipe down the wood trim in your car. Then use this Carnauba turtle wax from Target to finish the job. Once the wood is polished and protected, go back to using regular auto-wipes or sprays for regular maintenance.
Where to Look for a Replacement Car Dash
Image via Flickr
Is your dashboard damaged or does it have electronics that need to be replaced? There are several options for how you can repair or replace your car dash or electronics.
Car parts stores
Most brick and mortar car part stores and online auto stores sell replacement covers for your car dash. They range from $50 to $300 depending on the material and customization of the car dashboard cover. You can get this customizable carpet gray dashboard cover from Advanced Auto parts or these dash covers online from CarParts.com.
If your dashboard cover is in good shape, but you have buttons falling out, you need a dashboard repair kit. These repair kits include things that often wear out over time like buttons and knobs. They range from $40 to $80 like this repair kit from PartsTrain.com or this repair kit from AutoPartsWarehouse.com. Buying a car dash repair kit is a more economical way of repairing your dashboard if most of it is still in good shape.
You can also find car dash repair kits on Amazon like this one from Innobrav that fits many car makes and models such as the Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, Silverado, Traverse, GMC Acadia, and GMC. Similar to other kits, this one includes replacements for buttons and knobs for a dashboard.
If you prefer buying used car dash replacements, you can always head over to your local junkyard. According to HistoricVehicle.com, these are the best car junkyards in the United States.
If you don't have a junkyard close to your home, you can also find some online. Car-part.com, R&R Auto Salvage, and Tri-City Auto Salvage sell used car parts online and ship them to you. Junkyards are an economical way to find replacements for a damaged or worn out car dash if your car is an older model. If your car is new and has more modern hi-tech features, a junkyard may not have what you need.
The Bottom Line on Car Dash Care
Whether you have a vintage car or the latest model, your car dash is full of important features. These features help make your car ride safer, smoother, more entertaining, and luxurious. If your car didn’t come with some of these features like GPS, HUDs, or handsfree adapters, it is very easy to purchase them and mount them onto your car dash.
However, to make sure your dash continues to look and perform well over the years, it is important for you to take care of it. You have to clean it according to the material your car dash is made of. You have to repair and replace any buttons, knobs, screens, or other electronics that are worn out or not working. Your dashboard helps you keep the rest of your car in shape, so don’t neglect your car dash when it comes to caring for your ride.
Featured Image via Flickr