Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Fuel Gauge Sender

fuel gauge sender

The fuel gauge sender is a component that is found in the gas tank of most road going vehicles. The fuel gauge sender, also commonly referred to as the fuel sending unit, is the component responsible for sending the signal that operates the fuel level gauge in the instrument cluster. The fuel sending unit is made up of an arm, float, and a resistor that changes according the position of the float. The sender float is designed to float on the surface of the fuel inside of the tank. As the level drops, the position of the arm and float will shift and move a resistor which controls the display on the gauge. When the fuel sending unit has an issue it can cause the vehicle to experience issues with the fuel gauge, which can put the vehicle at risk of running out of fuel. Usually a bad or failing fuel gauge sender will produce a few symptoms that can alert the driver of a potential issue.

1. Fuel gauge behaves erratically

One of the first symptoms of a problem with the fuel gauge sender is a fuel gauge that behaves erratically. A faulty fuel gauge sender may cause the gauge to suddenly change positions, or give an inaccurate reading. The gauge may appear to be at three quarters, and then only a few minutes later will change to half full, or vice versa the gauge may appear to be full, only to have the gauge climb higher a short while later.

2. Fuel gauge stuck on empty

Another common symptom of a faulty fuel gauge sender is a gauge that is stuck on empty. If the float somehow breaks or becomes separated from the arm it may cause the fuel gauge to malfunction and become stuck on empty. A faulty resistor can also cause the gauge to read empty.

3. Fuel gauge stuck on full

Another, less common, symptom of an issue with the fuel gauge sender is a fuel gauge that is stuck on full. A faulty fuel gauge resistor can send a bad signal to the instrument cluster which can cause the gauge to permanently read full. This is an issue, as the driver needs to know the accurate fuel level of the vehicle as to not run out of fuel.

The fuel sending unit is not a routinely serviced component, usually only serviced when it, or the fuel pump fails, however it does play an important role to the proper operation of the vehicle. If you fuel gauge is displaying any of the symptoms, or you suspect that there may be an issue with this unit, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if the fuel gage sender should be replaced.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Still not sure about your car's issue?
Diagnose your car
What kind of issue are you experiencing?
Brakes are squeaking
Car is not starting
Car is overheating
Car is shaking (vibrating)
Fluids are leaking
Heating and A/C
Smoke or steam is coming out of the car
Warning light is on
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

P2428 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Gas Temperature Too High Bank 1
P2428 code definition A P2428 trouble code signifies that the PCM has detected a problem in the exhaust gas temperature sensor circuit in bank 1, which subsequently contains the number one...
P0359 OBD-II Trouble Code: Ignition Coil I Primary/Secondary Circuit Malfunction
P0359 code definition The P0359 code indicates that a fault has been detected in one of the vehicle’s ignition coils, generally the number 9 coil. This code can also be associated...
P0477 OBD-II Trouble Code: Exhaust Pressure Control Valve Low
P0477 code means that the PCM has detected an abnormally low voltage reading often due to the exhaust back pressure control valve circuit.


Related questions

Q: Need non-working gauges replaced.

If the gauges on your instrument cluster are not functioning properly I would first recommend checking for blown fuses. This is the most common cause of this issue. If no fuses are blown and none of the gauges are working...

Q: Engine gets hot and shuts down but has spark - 1989 Mercedes-Benz 300CE

Hi there, thanks for writing in. The fuel pumps in the fuel tank may have been damaged from debris in the fuel tank damaging the motors. Remove the fuel tank pumps and look inside the tanks to see if there...

Q: Cylinder 2 misfire

You need to pull out the coil and check to see if there is oil in the spark plug hole, or on the plug wire boot. If there is, then replace the valve cover and spark plug boots after cleaning...