The growth of the oil temperature gauge: why carmakers want us to love their engines

Skoda The growth of the oil temperature gaugeWhen the man from Williams Advanced Engineering started the engine of the Jaguar C-X75 from cold, he was strict with himself and stared at only one readout: the oil temperature panel.

The 1.6-litre Cosworth F1-intent engine sounded electrically eager but was absolutely not going above 3000rpm until some heat was in the oil. So we sat there, with a few revs dialled on, while he gently blipped the throttle to ripple the revcounter… and waited. For 10 minutes.

A wheel wasn’t turningĀ until 75deg C was showing on the digital panel.

And when an F1 engineer is being this strict and diligent, you know it’s process and practice to be taken seriously. See, oil doesn’t work when it’s cold. Remember the old Castrol GTX Magnatec ads? They were true, you know. If you want to slowly wreck an engine, then start it from cold, drive it for a few minutes, then turn it off. And repeat.

Or start it up and *cringe* immediately start blapping against the redline.

Should you not wish to, then be easy with the revs until you have heat in the oil. 10-15 minutes should do it. After all, you’ve no other way of knowing how much temperature is in there, do you? Well, traditionally you didn’t, unless you drove exotica. But recently…

Enter the oil temperature gauge

There’s an interesting and growing trend for modern cars – the addition of an oil temperature readout. For years, car manufacturers have been cutting back on instrumentation, arguing that customers don’t really care for it these days. So it is with relish that I, a dial geek, note that so many models are offering ways of monitoring how hot the oil is so you don’t thrash it until it’s ready.

Volkswagen was the first major brand to move, with an oil temperature sub-menu within its trip computer (for me, this was a proper easter egg find). This filtered through to Audi, to SEAT, to Skoda. It wants to be the world’s biggest car brand – a LOT of cars are thus going to carry oil temperature readouts.

BMW has for a while fitted oil temperature gauges to M models: with the F30, the stock water temperature gauge switched to the much more useful oilometer. The latest Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo has, via the Renauiltsport Monotor, an oil temperature gauge: so too has the Nissan GT-R that inspired it.

Porsche The growth of the oil temperature gauge

Once the preserve of performance cars such as the Porsche 911 (but not the 996…), oil temperature readouts are becoming mainstream. Long may it continue, too: the internal combustion engine isn’t going away any time soon so let’s celebrate its presence by monitoring its state more closely.

I have just one question: why? It’s a welcome move, but why, in the era of information minimisation, are car makers adding in such information? Do they really believe we should love and take good care our engines while we can, or is there something bigger at work here?

Over to you – why do you think the oil temperature gauge is back?