making sure the gauges work

The gas gauge in one of our vehicles quit working several months ago.It was a gradual failure. At first, when the car started the level would be accurate. The needle would then start to drift, bouncing high and low. Over time, however, the movement stopped and the needle stayed close to full.

I checked with a mechanic who said the unit that measured the amount of gas in the tank and sent a signal to the gauge was in the gas tank. Repairing it would mean removing the gas tank.

We didn’t want to spend the money. We realized that we could still figure out how much gas we had in the tank by looking at how far we traveled. Our car has a trip odometer, allowing us to keep track of how many miles we have traveled since that gauge was reset. All we had to do was to reset it each time we filled the tank, and stop for gas again about the time we had traveled 300 miles.

It wasn’t an accurate report of how much gas we had, but it would help. It did take some energy to remember to do the math rather than look quickly. And it took awhile to convince one of the drivers in our house not to trust the gas gauge.

And then the odometer light started to fade. Over a couple of days, it flickered and then faded completely. In our car, it’s not a $2 bulb. It is, I discovered, an LED, a light connected to a panel requiring removal of the dashboard.

We drove for awhile without knowing how much gas we had. We couldn’t track the actual level, we couldn’t track distance. It is amazing how unsettling that lack of knowledge is.

I finally went to the shop to find out about the odometer light. $1200. So I asked about the gas gauge. $900. We got the gauge fixed because it was more important to know how much fuel than to know how far we’d come. One was about history, the other about potential.

It was amazing to me that we had to spend nearly $1000 just to get a piece of data. It didn’t give us any more gas. It didn’t give us any more fuel efficiency. It didn’t give us anything but a fact, but that fact gave us peace of mind.

I think there are several lessons.

Tell me what they are.



One response to “making sure the gauges work

  1. You just can’t win when faced with choices like that.

    The only lessons are that it can be incredibly painful to spend money on maintaining a car. But you know that already.

    And the more modern technology is not always the best. Old wheels-and-gears odometers are more reliable, at least in your car’s case.

    About 30 years ago, my brother bought an old Mustang II from our cousin. It was in decent shape then, but as the months wore on, more and more things started to break. And they were all the “bells and whistles” that his deluxe model featured.