The Volkswagen Atlas' gas gauge is an example of poor information design

Originally published at: The Volkswagen Atlas' gas gauge is an example of poor information design | Boing Boing


I’ve probably rented about 100 cars in the last few years for my job. I quickly learned to pick the same kind of car every time (Chevy Impala) for precisely this reason.


SRSLY that cap-side indicator is totally garbage there. Either use it as a meter that moves up and down, or (preferably) put it elsewhere outside of the ‘grid’. I’d honestly make the whole fill section white dashes and then light green/yellow the dashes that indicate fill. That way you have a ‘portion of a whole’ indicated. I really hate design where ‘absence of indicator’ makes you work to figure out what the whole indicator might cover.


I think VW engineers are too busy working on their emissions fine avoidance systems to worry about a silly thing like a gas gauge.


Hell, I had a hard time even finding the fuel gauge. Super shitty design there.


As a data point, I had no problem locating the fuel gauge nor in telling the tank level.


A while back I converted my 1960 Falcon to run on propane. The sending unit in the new propane tank had the same resistance range of about 0-90 ohms as the unit in my old gas tank, but the difference was that one unit had a reading of 0 ohms when empty, and the other was 90 ohms when empty. So they both worked with my fuel gauge but with the new setup the gauge reads full when it’s really empty, and empty when it’s really full.

I’m sure there’s a circuit I could set up that would flip-flop the resistance to correct this, but I never got around to working that out and found that just swapping the E and F on the gauge works too.


The same happened when we put a Chevelle gas tank in the Edsel for the first Lemons Rally.
My brother fixed it with Dymo tape E and F labels.

As for this VW gas gauge, it’s from the ‘fewer visual cues are trendy’ school of design. Come on guys, this is an automobile, not an art exhibit. Give us the information.


Furthermore, it’s at the extreme right end of the deeply recessed instrument panel, where the passenger will never be able to see it. Same is true in my wife’s Outback. My empty-tank worries are difficult to assauge when she’s driving, which is always.


I feel seen.


Does the figure 70 under range not indicate how much fuel is left in distance?


Most of the time, engine coolant temperature isn’t important, except when it really really is. Now I’m not even sure if there’s an idiot light for that.

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Same here.

I kept staring at the picture to see if the level wasn’t 1/4 full.

No my gripe is that VAG (volkswagen audi group) is switching to the virtual cockpit displays - I’ve owned enough VAG cars from the 2000s to remember their failing cluster displays and can’t imagine they’ve managed to figure out that problem let alone a whole cluster that is a display.

I say analog clusters for lyfe yo!


I agree, but let’s all be glad that the era of ugly blank spaces because you didn’t choose to pay for upgrades is mostly over:


I’d also like to add - what’s the lifespan of a digital cluster’s display? 5 years? 10 years? 30? When a cluster that is a display goes bad, it has to be replaced. In the case of VAG cars, the cluster has to be replaced and the immobilizer has to be mated to new cluster- which is usually dealer- level software (or a few “illegal” programs out there). Dealers also only install bnib parts (never ever ever used!) So you’re looking at ~$2000 to replace.

The beauty of an analog cluster is that they “usually” are still good 30+ years later, can “usually” be rebuilt, (and if rebuildable) can be installed by the user. I understand immobilizer protocols were likely put in place to prevent odometer fraud

Now that I look at the post I’ve been writing I know it appears that I’m a luddite when it comes to cars and to that I say, “get off my lawn you damn kids!”


Yep. I have a 2013 Tiguan and I find this fuel gauge on the right much bigger than what I currently have in my car. Additionally, you can customize the center screen to show mileage remaining, which I think can be more helpful. (I’m guessing that this is what the car dealer has done in this case.)

The green would be helpful, but the moving gas pump is pretty good, too.


Same thing happened to me. It was a rental to replace a work vehicle and I couldn’t figure out whether I needed gas or not. I can’t remember the make of the car, but I know it wasn’t VW.

Yeah, in my experience the time from coolant temp pegging to radiator cap venting < the time required to pull onto the shoulder and come to a complete stop.

Pro-tip: old volvos with busted airbox thermostats really hate hot days in the desert.

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I have a new GM (Chevy) Bolt, at least new last year. It has all the options, not even all-bar-1.

It also has more button blanks then buttons because they picked some AC Delco part that has like eight blanks even though they only populate three buttons tops. Seriously if you can’t be bothered to actually use a button bank with the right number of buttons make some of the “blanks” be shortcuts for touch screen controls (“switch to AndroidAuto/AppleCarPlay”, “switch to camera mode”, “switch charge mode”).


That gauge isn’t the best, but like the one in my Kia Soul, I never look at it, because there’s a range indicator front and center. And putting a big green bar in a cluster with no green would be ugly. Make the white gauge bars thicker, move the gas cap arrow to the little gas pump in the range indicator, and you’re done. I personally would never confuse the gas cap indicator with fuel level, as I’ve never seen those two things linked, but I could see how you might, especially in a rental situation, where you’re not living with the vehicle.