CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Sudden drop in gas gage level

I have a 2003 Kia Sorento with 63,000 miles on it. I got in and drove about 3 miles the other day. The gas gage needle was between E and 1/4 tank. All of a sudden I heard the alarm warning of low gas and saw the fuel light was on and the gage needle was not only on empty but edging passed E. Is this a symptom of something other than the gage needle sticking? I stopped immediately and got $20 dollars of gas. It was an expensive place so I didn’t fill up.

More likely a problem with the sending unit (in the tank) than the gague needle sticking

Yea a worn or sticking sending unit. If it does it again after a fill up, I would at least price out the cost of replacing the sending unit. Some cars it is a five minute job with a $10 part.

If it happens at random times it might be a wiring problem.

Depending on how the car was parked the gauge may have read more than what was actually in the tank. If the car was pointing uphill or downhill, or parked leaning to one side the reading you see when you first start the car will not be correct, and as the car is driven the gauge will move to the correct level.

I think you were just out of gas.

The gasoline in the tank cools the fuel pump, which is inside the tank. It’s a good idea to never let the tank get lower than 1/4 full, since this can allow the fuel pump to work harder and possibly overheat, and a fuel pump is expensive to replace.

Refill before the tank gets too low.