tachometer (tăkŏm´ətər), instrument that indicates the speed, usually in revolutions per minute, at which an engine shaft is rotating. Some tachometers, especially those used in automobiles, are similar in construction and operation to automotive speedometers. Other types, often connected directly to the shaft whose speed they indicate, are small electric generators whose output voltage is proportional to speed. This voltage is applied to a voltmeter whose dial is calibrated in speed units. Another type, used only with engines having an ignition system, operates by counting the pulsations of current or voltage in the ignition system, the number of these being proportional to the speed of the shaft.