Car History: When did fuel gauges become available on cars?

I watched a DVD that was set in the 1930s. The protagonist drove a car loaned to him, and ran out of gas when there was a fuel station closer to where he began his journey. I thought, “maybe the car does not have a fuel gauge.”

A Google search gave me the answer.

Don’t know, but early VW Beetles didn’t have a fuel gauge. They used the same technique as my motorcycle used, when you ran out of gas, you switched a valve to a reserve tank which would usually be enough gas to get you to a gas station.

“The first dash-mounted gas gauge by Studebaker in 1914.”

That was the first step I took; unfortunately, with search engines, the answers can be all over the place; and confuse the researcher even more.

My bike had one too, but I’ve run out of fuel too often (once) to allow my tank to get that low.

Cool. Chryslers had newfangled gadgets on several cars, I’ll look into the early ones.

So if it was “dash mounted” was there earlier cars with a gauge on the tank itself?

The Ford Model A had its gas tank just ahead of the windshield and it had a float type gas gauge sticking out of it.

Pretty dangerous by today’s standards!

Whoa! Per some research on the Model T, measuring sticks were used. It sounds like
they used more than one method of knowing how much fuel they had.

Did the model A use gravity feed? If so, I wonder if they put the tank there (rather than in back) so it wouldn’t run out of gas when going up steep hills? My dad used to drive a model T on the job when he was a kid, and he told me he would have to back up steep hills. Presumably this is b/c on the T the gas tank was in the back and it used gravity feed for the gas.


The first fuel gauge was put on a car 20 minutes after someone ran out of gas with his incontinent mother-in-law in the back seat.


LOL :rofl:

This is great, historical information. I drive a stick, but I’ve seen Model Ts in museums, I always wondered how to drive one.

very carefully and slowly

All of those levers, and a pedal for reverse; not to mention the crank starter on earlier Model Ts.

A buddy in high school had a Model A with a rumble seat. The car did not have a fuel pump, and the fuel was gravity fed from the front mounted tank.

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That was one of the features on his Beetle that my dad failed to mention, according to mom.

He got a phone call one day possibly using unladylike language when she ran out of gas. Her 1970 Datsun 510 had a fuel gauge so she wasn’t used to the VW’s little quirks.

This could explain why my brother’s '66 Beetle had a gauge that ranged from “F, to R.” Not sure if R was reserve, or what, but my brother said it was for “Refill.” Per an Internet search,
it seems that the reserve lever was eliminated before '66, it was on the '50s models.

Thank you all for the replies. I will take it that the 1914 Studebaker is probably the oldest car we could find with a dash-mounted fuel gauge.