Car people: what do you think of aftermarket gauges?

I have a BMW 3-series. It does not come with an oil temperature gauge, and this is a never-ending source of irritation for me, since I never know when the car has warmed up. From a cold start it’s easy to judge, but what about when I’m getting back in the car after it’s been sitting for an hour or two? The water temperature gauge, aside from being useless in general (since oil takes much longer to warm up / cool down than water) is essentially just an analog idiot light.

So, I’m thinking about adding an aftermarket set of gauges. I’m wondering about what people think about the…aesthetics of this choice. I really don’t like the “riced-out” / aftermarket look, but there’s not much I can do about it if I want the gauges.

This is the gauge kit I would buy. It seems high-quality enough - it comes with lights that match the factory orange illumination, and the panel is covered in black leather to match the rest of the interior. It mounts in place of the factory “oddments” box (where I keep my sunglasses, now). The installation seems fairly easy, and if nothing else it should be a fun afternoon project. It comes with an oil temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, and voltmeter.

So, what do you think? Does it look too tacky, or should I go for it? Note that my car does not have that horrendous pink interior…

As add-on gauges go, these are pretty discreet. At least you’re not going for the hallmark of ricedom - the softball-sized tach mounted on the A-pillar up next to the windshield.

Do you really need to know the oil temp though? Unless you’re racing, most cars are just turn the key and drive moderately for a mile or so, then have fun. Or, in the case of a Taurus I had years back, once the lifters had re-filled and stopped sounding like a teletype.

Gauges are always better than idiot lights, IMHO. An idiot light won’t tell you anything other than you’ve crossed the “Oh shit!” point, while a gauge will let you know you’re getting close. So get 'em and then write an angry letter to BMW telling them that you’re pissed they weren’t stock to begin with.

Well, obviously it isn’t needed. But it would be nice to have.

I’ve read online that due to several factors, BMW engines are particularly sensitive to being operated with the oil cold. For instance, at 3250 RPM, the VANOS system engages (variable camshaft timing), which is prone to failure if it’s operated with the oil too cold (I believe this is due to the increased oil pressure at low temperatures). It’s quite expensive to replace.

Also, the engine has a large oil capacity (seven quarts for a 2.5 liter engine), so it takes a while for the oil to warm up. In the winter especially, I try to drive ten miles before I take the engine over 3000 RPM. This is rather tedious, especially considering that most of motor’s power (and fun) is only available from 3000 RPM up. So, if I leave the car for an hour or two and come back out, I’d like an oil temperature gauge to tell me exactly when I can crank it up to redline again, without having to wait ten miles all the time.

Yeah, every car really should have gauges. Not doing so, especially on a high-end sports car, is inexcusable IMHO. BMW should know better.

I think you made a really reasonable choice for your gauge selection and I’d install them without hesitation. The only warning would be to be sure that you don;t intend to install an add-on stereo or naxv system that would need that console space.

In any case, thank go you’re not mounting them on top of the dash or directly onto the steering column. I believe there are some other decent alternatives which place the gauges lower, under the spedometer near the bottom of the dash which may be worth considering.