Are Car Thermometers Accurate? (Explained For Beginners)

One of the most useful gauges that you may want to look at so that you can get a good idea of how cold or hot the weather might be is the thermometer in your car.

But while we do use the thermostat to check up on the weather outside so that we can get a good idea of what we should be wearing the moment we leave our car, there are some instances where you might have noticed that the temperature really isn’t the same as what your car is saying.

Are car thermometers accurate?

To some extent, yes, car thermometers are actually accurate. However, the reason why there are inaccuracies between the reading and the actual outside temperature can be due to certain environmental factors that can make it look like the thermometer is actually inaccurate.

Car thermometers are designed to be accurate as far as their purposes are concerned.

Then again, because there are some factors that can affect these thermometers, it becomes easy to believe that your thermometer might be broken or might be faulty due to the perceived inaccuracy.

As such, it is best to know why car thermometers can be inaccurate.

Can the thermometer in a car be wrong?

Whenever we are on a long road trip from one state to another or when you are driving to a high-altitude place, it is important to be aware of the temperature outside because you want to make sure that you are dressed for the weather when you are going to alight from your car.

That’s because the temperature of the place where you started will not always be the same as the temperature of the place of your final destination.

Driving up from LA to San Francisco, for example, can give you an idea of how much the temperatures between these places can change.

That said, the car’s thermometer is one of the tools you can use to get a better picture of how hot or cold it is outside even when you are still in the car.

With the help of the thermometer, you can prepare yourself for the outside weather by wearing thicker clothes or by taking off your jacket depending on the temperature conditions outside your car.

But you may have experienced that it really isn’t always the same when it comes to the temperature reading in your car’s thermometer and the actual temperature outside the vehicle.

So, can a car thermometer be wrong?

For the most part, the car’s thermometer can be wrong in terms of the temperature that it is reading as opposed to the actual temperature outside.

But that doesn’t mean that the car’s thermometer is inaccurate. Wrong is totally different from inaccuracy because these are two different words with different meanings.

When we say that the car’s thermometer is wrong, that means that what it is showing is not the same as the actual temperature outside.

For the most part, this is actually true because of different factors that contribute to the temperature readings of your car.

However, when we say inaccurate, we are now pointing to whether or not car thermometers are actually working.

In that regard, what we are saying here is that car thermometers are accurate as far as their purposes are concerned.

These thermometers can accurately get a reading of the temperature really well, and that means that their supposed inaccuracy isn’t something that you should be thinking about.

Then again, because of certain factors, car thermometers may end up having readings that may be accurate but are totally wrong from the actual temperature of the air outside. And that’s something that you will understand as you go along with this discussion.

Why can car thermometers be wrong?

Now that you know that car thermometers can be wrong when it comes to the temperature that it is showing on the dashboard, what are the reasons why this is happening?

For starters, what we have to say first is that car thermometers are actually accurate because they work well enough when measuring temperatures.

But the problem here is that these thermometers aren’t actually showing you the real picture due to the below two main reasons:

  • Car thermometers are actually thermistors because what they do is that they measure temperature readings based on the electrical currents caused by a change in temperature.
  • Car thermometer are usually located in places that can affect the way they read the outside temperature. Most modern cars have thermometers that are located in the front of the car and just under the grill. As such, this means that they are located quite close to the road or surface on which your car is.

So, as you are driving, what your car’s thermometer is actually reading is the temperature of the asphalt instead of the actual temperature of the outside air.

If you have ever walked barefooted on the sand on a summer day, you would know how hot it is. In the same way, asphalt exposed under the sun can be much hotter than the air outside your car, and that’s why there are instances where the car’s thermometer can be wrong in terms of the actual temperature.

Meanwhile, your car’s thermometer will perform better on a cloudy day or whenever it’s the night because the asphalt under your car won’t be too hot and will have a temperature that is as close as possible to the outside air’s temperature.

Another limitation that your car’s thermometer has is in relation to whenever it’s wintertime.

That’s because these thermometers won’t be able to properly distinguish the difference between temperatures that are either above or below the freezing level. So, even if it’s already very cold outside, the thermometer might not give you an exact reading of whether or not the road is already blanketed with ice.

All that said, the car’s thermometer is accurate as far as its functions are concerned.

But because of how there are environmental factors and location considerations that can affect the way it is supposed to work, it becomes a tool that is more likely to be wrong than right in a lot of different instances.

As such, you can use your car’s thermometer whenever the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. Or you could use it as a basis for getting a good picture of the weather outside. But you shouldn’t be relying so much on what it can do because of all of the limitations that it has especially during extreme temperatures.

Sources

Action News 5: Breakdown: Why your car thermometer is usually inaccurate

Popular Mechanics: Why car thermometers are bad?

Earnhardt Lexus: How accurate are car thermometers

Weather.com: Why Your Car Thermometer is Wrong