Quick Question: Knob Or Stalk?

Illustration for article titled Quick Question: Knob Or Stalk?

I know that question up there may sound a little, um, unsavory, but it’s a pretty fundamental question that I’m not sure has ever really been asked: when it comes to dashboard controls, do you prefer to grab or twist or poke things on the dash, or do you prefer to manipulate parts of a stalk?

The older the car, the more likely the basic controls will be on the dashboard itself. As time went on, more and more controls found themselves migrating to stalks sprouting out of the steering column. Windshield wiper controls especially, for some reason, are now almost exclusively on stalks.

Headlights, though, are still undecided, with European (especially German) makes seeming to prefer a location on the dash, while Japanese cars tend to be almost exclusively stalk-light-controllers. I think American cars may just barely lean to dash light controls, but there’s a mix.

Illustration for article titled Quick Question: Knob Or Stalk?

So, I just want to do an informal poll here: what do you like better, knobs or stalks? Stalks let you keep your hands on the wheel, but dash knobs are easier to see and understand.

Personally, I think I prefer dash controls, because I both tend to prefer old shitboxes and because I’m often in many kinds of cars, and dash controls are easier to glance at and figure out. But stalks are convenient, once you learn them.

So, if you have a deep-seated preference, now’s your chance to be the advocate. And if you get into a heated argument about this, it’s going to be hilarious to explain it to your non-gearhead friends, who will just use it as further confirmation that you’re a loon.



Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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Buttons/knobs. The steering wheel area is for things that need either constant use or emergency use during driving. Shift levers, audio volume, cruise control, horn, even wipers for a surprise puddle need to be at the ready and easy to hit.

Your headlights get adjusted once, maybe twice during most trips, no need to waste space on the wheel. Plus it’s way easier to tell if your setting them to auto, park, fog, etc. Only the toggle for brights can be on a stalk, although I wish that floor switches would make a comeback.