How to Fix Your Car’s Gas Gauge

You can test and possibly fix your car’s gas gauge with some DIY methods or take it to a professional for servicing.
Written by Payton Ternus
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
A broken or stuck gas gauge can make driving very challenging since you’ll have to track your gas usage and mileage manually to avoid running out. You can test and potentially fix the gas gauge in your car at home or take it to an expert for professional servicing.
It’s important to know how much gas is in your car, and a gas gauge is a helpful tool that lets you know when you need to refill the gas tank.
If your gas gauge stops working properly, it can be stressful to drive around constantly tracking your gas usage—that’s why
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created this guide to understanding the ins and outs of your car’s gas gauge and how to fix it. And once you've done that, you can find savings on car insurance with Jerry's
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What is the gas gauge?

The gas gauge is located on your car’s dashboard behind the steering wheel. It’s one of the most referenced gauges when talking about cars—most people already know what it is before they start driving.
Gas gauges are essential in keeping track of how much gas is left in your car’s gas tank. You’ll know when you need to fill up again, thanks to the position of the needle in the gauge.
Key Takeaway Keeping track of your car’s gas is easy, thanks to the gas gauge. If it doesn’t work properly, you’ll have to keep track of your mileage by hand.

What does the gas gauge do?

The gas gauge on your dashboard has the very important job of monitoring how much gas is in your gas tank. It lets you know when the gas level is too low and you need to refill the tank.
The best way to explain how the gas gauge works is to think of it as a more complex toilet float valve
Like a toilet, there is a floating device attached to a thin metal float arm that connects to a rheostat, or resistance-sweep. The change of electrical resistance at the sender causes the gas gauge needle to move and reflect the amount of gas in the tank.

How can you tell the gas gauge isn’t working?

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to see when there’s a problem with your gas gauge. If the gas gauge is constantly reading as full or empty, has nonsensical readings, or changes erratically, there is a problem with the fuel reading instruments.
Problems with the gas gauge can occur in the gauge itself, the wiring, or the sender. There may even be problems in multiple places, so you’ll want to conduct a thorough inspection.

What causes the gas gauge to stop working?

Now you can recognize when there’s a problem with the gas gauge, but how did it happen in the first place?
Issues with the gas gauge can stem from several different components. Issues most commonly arise in the sending system, which reports the fuel tank level reading directly to the gauge. Problems can also result from blown fuses, corroded wiring, and a faulty gauge.

How to fix the gas gauge

You won’t want to drive with a faulty gas gauge—you’ll have to manually
keep track of your mileage
and gas usage, so you don’t wind up stranded on the side of the road. Here are the steps that you (or your trusted mechanic) can take to troubleshoot any problems with your car’s gas gauge:
  • Test the gas gauge needle. Turn your car on and off a few times, and watch the gas gauge needle for any movement. If it does not move, you’re most likely dealing with a blown fuse that needs a replacement. You can typically find the fuse box in the engine compartment or under the dashboard on the driver’s side.
  • Test the grounding wire. The grounding wire on the sending unit is attached to the gas tank. To test its functionality, attach the negative jumper cable to the frame of the car and the positive cable to the sending unit’s grounding terminal. The grounding wire needs to be replaced if the gas gauge works while the jumper cables are connected.
  • Disconnect wiring on the fuel sending unit. Disconnect the wiring connected to the sending unit and take a look at the gas gauge. If the needle reads as empty, you have a bad gauge that needs to be replaced. If the needle reads as full, there’s a problem with the sending unit, and it needs to be replaced.
  • Reconnect all wiring. Make sure all the wiring is reconnected securely to the back side of the fuel gauge. You will need to remove the dashboard to access it.
  • Check the grounding wire. The last step is testing the grounding wire. Connect the negative jumper cable to the frame of the car and the positive cable to the grounding terminal on the fuel gauge. Turn on the ignition to see if the gauge is working. If it isn’t, you need to replace the grounding wire.

How to save on car insurance

You can troubleshoot problems with your car’s gas gauge at home or leave it to the pros. The same applies to
car insurance
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MORE: How to clean your car’s dashboard
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