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1994 Camry fuel gauge always shows empty

My 94 Camry 4 cyl fuel gauge seems to be broke. It always shows empty. The “fuel warning” light doesn’t come on however.
The last time it worked, I had about 1/2 tank and filled it up. It took several minutes for the gauge to creep up to full. It worked for a few days and then when i started the car this evening, the gauge showed empty and tays on empty.

What is the most likely issue here? I’ve read that it could be the sending unit, bad wiring or the gauge itself. All other dashboard gauges are working fine.


It is very possible that the sending unit, the float actually, has failed.

However, somebody will have to verify that the gauge and wiring are working correctly. What the mechanic does is unplug the fuel sender connector and hook up a decade resistance box instead.
Then he simulates 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full tank. If the gauge responds correctly, the gauge and wiring are good. In which case the problem is in the tank, most likely with the sender.

This is the way I’ve always done it, on various makes and models. And it’s given me my answers.

On most cars, the sender is the problem. A lot of guys blindly replace the sender without doing any testing. Occasionally one of them gets burned, because that wasn’t the problem.

Has there been work done on the car just before this happened? Esp if it was under the dash, or in the rear part of the car by the fuel tank. I think on the Camry the sender wire is sort of under the rear passenger seat, but I could be wrong about that. Anyway, if there has been work done just before this happened, maybe they had to disconnect a wire for clearance, and forgot to hook it back up again when they were done. As @db4690 says above, it usually makes sense to take the time to verify the wiring is good from the sender to the gauge and the gauge works before replacing the sender unit. That’s what I’d do if it were my car. Best of luck, this is definitely diagnosable and fixable.

The sender is easy enough to get to so any diagnosis should not be that difficult and odds are the sender is going south. Or already went. :slight_smile:

Another possibility is the sensor contacts are dirty and need cleaning. Some folks have had success on getting the gauge to work again by adding some Techron, which is made by Chevron, to the fuel tank. It cleans the fuel system.

the sender is easy to get too? does that mean the fuel pump assy can be replaced without lowering the tank?

On that vintage Camry you can access the sender and fuel pump by lifting up the back seat and removing the access plate. Loosening tight connections is another matter.

If you do decide to pull the sensor I suggest you try cleaning the variable resistor connections by hand and see if that gets it going.

There are only 4 possible problems: (1) Sending unit bad. This is the most likely issue by far. Your car is 20 yrs old. (2) Gauge is bad. (3) Wire between sending unit and gauge is bad (unlikely). (4) Dirty contacts, like stated above. … If you pull your tank to change the sending unit I suggest replacing your fuel pump and screen also, even if they are fine. That’s a lot of work to get the tank down and the pump isn’t that much $$ compared to the time. You will find the most economical choice is a fuel pump and sending unit combined–which is how it’s usually done.

Okay, first remove rear seat sushi on and access plate. Find out which wires go from the sending unit to the instrument cluster. If you open (unplug that wire/harness) it will show empty. If you short the signal wire straight to body ground, the gauge should show full. If it does you have just eliminated the wiring from the sender/pump to the meter and the meter/gauge. Your problem is now either the harness that connects to the sender or the sender itself. The sending unit uses a float arm that connects to a variable resistor. Don’t bother cleaning it. It won’t work. Buy a new sending unit and be on your way. Oh, not for nothing, be sure there is no giant dent in the bottom of the tank. Trust me. But I’m sure you’d know if you hit something. But my customer didnt. Be sure before pulling pump that the pins inside the connector aren’t green and corroded. Cheers

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Concur w/TiltedTree above, cleaning using a gas additive not likely to work. Often what happens when a tank sender fails is the float gets a leak, fills w/gas, and sinks instead of floating like it should. No float, no work.

@TiltedTree … just curious, I assume on a Camry the tank has to be removed to replace the pump, but do you have to remove the tank to replace the sender, or can you replace it by just lifting the rear seat?

The tank does not have to be removed to get to the pump.

On this model, the sender should be separate from the fuel pump and both accessible just by removing the lower rear seat cushion. Piece of cake.

Have the same problem. Gauge is dead. However, my concern is how directly connected the gauge is to the keyed ignition. I had a buddy finangle my lock cylinder when I lost the key, and it came back like this. He’s, of course, out of town now.

I don’t see any wiring issues at the fuel pump connection, either.

Temp gauge work? In most cases the temp and gas gauge power through the same circuit and the grounds for each go their separate ways through the temperature sender and the fuel tank sender,.

You need to figure out which wire in the pump connector is the ground for the gas gauge. Run a jumper from it to metal on the car chassis. With the key on (and IF the temp gauge works as I mentioned) you should see the gas needle rise to full quickly. If not, maybe an issue with the back of the instrument cluster or the gas gauge itself.