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Gas Gauge Malfunction

I drive a 2004 Nissan Maxima–it has about 21000 miles on it. About a month ago, the gas gauge dial (the one on instrument panel by the steering wheel) went wacko. I filled the tank and really didn’t pay much attention to the position of the dial after filling it. However, the next morning, the dial was way over on the right side of the E past the stopper! It’s like someone tipped my car over and the little indicator stick got on the wrong side of the stopper. When I turn the car off, the little stick drops way down off the gauge and when I turn the car on, the little stick hits the stopper–like it would really like to go past that stopper but can’t–because the stopper is in the way.

So now I have a couple of questions–how did this happen and can it be fixed without taking apart the whole instrument panel? Do I need to get someone to tip my car over in the other direction to get the stick back on the correct side of the stopper?

I should mention that in addition to the gauge on the instrument panel, my car also has an electronic readout that tells me fuel economy so I can press that button–located over the radio–and find out how many miles I have until the tank is empty. Not convenient, but it does seem to be keeping accurate track of the gas I have left in my tank.

Thanks for any help you can give me.

That electronic gadget may or may not be very accurate. Don’t over rely on it. I would refill the tank after you get to about half. You may get lucky and somewhere between now and when you finish filling it up from half full, it will start working again.

There is also the possibility that the gauge has problems that are going to take some real repairs. That could include removing and maybe replacing the float valve assembly and I don’t know how difficult that is on your car. It may also be a loose or broken wire.

Hopefully someone who knows Nissan’s better than I can give you some more specific help.

Not your fault, but your problem description is hard to follow. It sounds like you are saying that the fuel gauge needle has somehow shpronged itself around to the right side of the mechanical stop at the right side of its normal range. That wouldn’t seem to be impossible although I can’t recall that I’ve ever seen it happen in about 50 years of tinkering with electronics.

I doubt that the problem is the fuel level sensor in the tank, but it’s (barely) possible that those clever Japanese have come up with a needle design that saves ten cents per car and behaves really oddly when the fuel level sensor gives an “impossible” reading.

Odds are that the gauge is broken and there isn’t much you can do to fix it other than replacing the gauge. That probably means replacing the instrument cluster – which won’t be cheap. If the car is under warranty, take it to the dealer and let them worry about it. If not, talk to a good independent mechanic about the problem. Maybe when they see the problem, they will see an easy solution. If not they can probably replace the gauge/cluster – maybe with one from a salvage yard.

Could be the gauge, could be the sender. The sender is in the fuel tank, along with the fuel pump. Testing of the sender output may tell you something.

Is the mileage computer still working, even though the gas gauge is not?

I think that if the miles-to-empty display is still working, your fuel sender must be working okay. I would suspect that the problem is with the actual gauge in the instrument cluster. I’ve never had a Nissan, but the miles-to-empty displays on all the cars that I have had, have been very accurate. I would guess that you are safe to just go by it. Frankly, I just use that display/warning and hardly ever look at the fuel gauge anyway.

vtcodger2 described EXACTLY what happened to the gas gauge on the instrument panel. I know it sounds impossible and my husband thought I was nuts when I told him that the needle was on the WRONG side of the stop. (thanks for helping me with all the correct terminology) The car is no longer under warranty, unfortunately. I am a very low mileage driver so I will be keeping the car for at least 4 or more years. But if I do decide to trade it or sell it, how much will the gas gauge situation affect the resale value–will the low mileage offset a broken gas gauge?

The resale value will be affected because some driver’s will not buy a car with a defective fuel guage. It’s hard to say how much impact it will have. You should get an estimate of the repair.

I sold a Volvo with a defective guage. The car had 2 fuel tanks and the repair estimate was $1,200. I just reset the trip odometer every time I bought gas. The buyer of the car was OK with that, but 2 others who looked at the car won’t accept it that way.

How about removing the cluster, removing the cover to the cluster resetting the needle on the gague and plugging everything back in,worth a try.

If you dont mind a little hole in the plexiglass cover to the cluster you could use a hook tool to re-set the needle.

I am having the same problem with my gas guage as well. I am trying to find a wiring diagram for the fuel sender to see if there is a short in the wiring, but i cannot find one. I also have to pull my instrument cluster and see if there is a short back there.