The nature of the gauge is that it should behave with a linear taper between full and empty. If it works when full but then malfunctions as the level drops, the variable resistor in the sending unit which is housed along with the fuel pump in the gas tank is almost certainly at fault. The sending unit will have to be replaced to fix the problem. Expect this to be an expensive endeavor.
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Re: fuel gauge problem
Actually if it is the fuel sending unit itself it is easy to repair. Just fold the rear passenger seat forward and you will see a square of carpet Velcro to the floor. lift that and wala there is your fuel pump/ sending unit. You can find the part on places like best price .com. rock auto, Parts geek, etc. Of course you can always go with your local auto parts store or dealer but the other places will save you some money and if you don't mind waiting a couple or so days it will be even cheaper. Most do offer next day or two day shipping for an extra charge. They sometimes get the part to you quicker than what they estimate. Simple job to remove and replace.
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Repair is a major job involving dropping the fuel tank, a messy and dirty and dangerous job. It will take you at least one full Saturday to do this job if everything goes right and you have the proper parts. My free advice to you is to fill your tank every 200 miles and forget about the fuel gauge.
Normal. There is a resister in the fuel level circuit that slows down fuel level readings. A gauge that responded instantly to a sloshing fuel level every time you went over a bump or around a turn would drive you crazy.
Most likely it a bad fuel level sensor on you fuel pump. You will have to replace the fuel pump as that is the only way to replace the sensor for you fuel gauge. The sensor is built into the fuel pump. The contacts on the sensor become corroded over time and cause the sensor to malfunction causing your fuel gauge to read full all the time. I have a 2001 Montana extended version that had the same problem. In order to know when I needed to fill the tank, I would completely fill it each time I put fuel in and reset my trip odometer. I would go 400 miles on the tank before I would refuel until we were able to replace the fuel pump.
This is a normal concern.
The instrument cluster uses 4 different operating modes to calculate the fuel level:
Anti-slosh (default mode) Key OFF fueling Key ON fueling Recovery After a fuel fill up, the time for the fuel gauge to move from empty (E) to full (F) ranges from 2 seconds to 55 minutes depending on which operating mode the fuel gauge is in.
The default fuel gauge mode is called the anti-slosh mode. To prevent fuel gauge changes from fuel slosh (gauge instability due to changes in fuel sender readings caused by fuel moving around in the tank), the fuel gauge takes approximately 55 minutes to go from empty (E) to full (F).
The key OFF fueling mode (2 seconds to read empty [E] to full [F]) requires 3 conditions be met:
The key must be in the OFF position throughout the entire refueling of the vehicle. At least 15% of the vehicle's fuel capacity must be added to the fuel tank. The instrument cluster must receive a valid key ON fuel sender reading within 1 second of the key being put into the RUN position. The key ON sample readings are considered valid if the fuel sender reading is between 15 ohms ± 2 ohms and 160 ohms ± 4 ohms. If these conditions are not met, the fuel gauge stays in the anti-slosh mode, which results in a slow to read full (F) event.
The key ON fueling mode (approximately 90 seconds to read empty [E] to full [F]) requires 3 conditions be met:
The transmission is in PARK (P). The key is in the RUN position. At least 15% of the vehicle's fuel capacity must be added to the fuel tank. In key ON fueling mode, a 30-second timer activates after the transmission is put into the PARK (P) position (automatic transmissions). When the 30-second time has elapsed and at least 15% of the vehicle's fuel capacity has been added, the fuel gauge response time is 90 seconds to read from empty (E) to full (F). When the transmission is shifted out of PARK (P), the fuel gauge strategy reverts to the anti-slosh mode. The key on refueling mode prevents slow to read full events from happening if the customer refuels the vehicle with the key in the RUN position.
Recovery mode is incorporated into the instrument cluster strategy to recover from a missing fuel level input during a refueling event. Missing fuel level inputs result from intermittent opens in the fuel sender or its circuits. Recovery mode (empty [E] to full [F] approximately 20 minutes) is initiated when the following 2 conditions are met:
The instrument cluster is in the anti-slosh (default) mode. The actual fuel level in the tank is greater than what is being displayed by the fuel gauge
check the grounds on your fuel tank sending unit,must drop the tank to do this. with the tank down,remove the ground and look at your fuel gauge it should read full or empty,if it does not it may be a sending unit