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Faulty Fuel Gauge


February 17, 2006
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City, State
Boiling Springs, PA
Year, Model & Trim Level
'03 XLT 4.0 Flex
I just bought a used XLT and I've noticed the gas gauge is acting strangely.

If I fill up the tank, the gauge doesn't swing up all the way to FULL until I've driven the car for about 100 miles. It slowly moves up to full as I drive it. Then it slowly moves back down as the gas is consumed, as it should.

Letting the car sit doesn't allow the needle to go to full--it is only through driving the car.

What can be done about this???

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Testing. Sending units don't usually go bad that early. I would try hooking up a gauge tester to the circuit and set it at a certain amount of resistance and see what the gauge says. If its in specs then get a new sending unit...if its not then a new gauge is needed


Make sure you take the keys out of the truck and close all of the doors when you fill up the truck. The fuel gage circuit includes an "anti-slosh" module to prevent gage fluctuations going around corners, up and sown hills, etc. With the electrical power off, the module is not in the circuit to allow for quick response after refills. I have had the slow "rise to full" happen when I was listening to the radio while filling the vehicle.

I wonder if the module you are referring to can be disconnected easily. It would be interesting to see if that solves my problem. Does anyone know where the module is located? Are there schematics on the net I can use to find and disconnect it?

Mine did the same thing when I got it at 30,000 miles. I figured it might have been because it sat for a while with not much fuel in the tank. Once I started putting 20 gallons a week in it, it began to respond much faster. I don't think mine ever took 100 miles to go to full though, more like 4-5 short trips with turning the truck off each time.


My '04 does this intermittently as well (once every few months) but I haven't taken it to the dealer yet. Upon investigation I found that TSB 04-21-15 discusses the "fuel gauge slow to update after refueling" problem.

Some 2002-2005 Explorer/Mountaineer vehicles built on or after 3/4/2002, may exhibit the fuel gauge needle (pointer) being slow to indicate full after refueling. In some instances it may require a maximum of 55 minutes of accumulated "key in run time" for the gauge to indicate a full reading. This may be due to the strategy of the fuel gauge software.

The TSB describes the fix as checking for diagnostic trouble codes (DTC's) and follow normal diagnostics per Workshop Manual Section 413-00, repair as necessary. If no codes or other conditions are found, replace the instrument cluster (10849). The fuel gauge strategy has been revised to reduce pointer recovery time from a maximum 55 minutes to a maximum 17 minutes.

This is covered under the new vehicle warranty.

I've been having the same fuel guage problem. First, my dealer told me that it was the type of fuel that I was buying. Then the dealer told me that it was the fuel cluster which they replaced. The third time I went in for the same problem, they told me that there are two modes, a regular mode and a slosh mode. When it takes awhile for your guage to read full after you filled it, then it was in slosh mode. Whatever, I don't think they know what the problem is.

Why do fuel gauges have to be complicated?

Fuel gauges have been working fine for years. Do we really need software and computer programs to make a damn needle go back and forth? What's wrong with a gauge and a sending unit, PERIOD! WTF FORD?! Spend your engineering dollars to make a decent rear end, or an automatic trans that doesn't require a degree to change the fluid, or a 4X4 module that doesn't suck!

Try this , Some people say if you overfill it (keep cramming gas in after it shuts off) It will make the gauge act that way. So try the next time you fill up to stop putting fuel in when the handle shuts off. I don't know if there is any truth to this but it's worth a try.

I've noticed that mine is a little off too. My needle goes past empty before it even is. I've run the thing to the point where the needle rests when the truck is off, thinking I was about to run out, and the "Check Gauge" light comes on, but when I fuel up, it's full at like 20 gallons, which is 2.5 gallons less than what the manual says the explorer can hold. What's up with that?

I've experienced fuel guage problems too.

After owning my EB for 5 months, the guage doesnt sit flat on the Empty level like it used to. Upon top filling of the gas tank, which i always do whenever i gas up, it exceeds more than the F level. And when i say it exceeds it, it really does. Used to be it'll go past F just a millimeter or so, now its a few centimeters already. I brought it to the dealer and they immediatley diagnosed it. They confirmed that it is a 'fuel tank float' problem and that they have had a couple of clients already going in for this. I had it scheduled and they took a day to replace it - free of charge. It was working fine a few days after the service, but it went back to the same problem after a few weeks. I guess there is nothing fatally wrong with having an 'off' gas guage if its only a few centimeters. Its just a bit irritating to be paying for a Php2.5M ($50k) vehicle and have that kind of a gas guage. Dont get me wrong. I use it to go trailing and for everyday commutes. Its fine, its silent and the power is there. Its only this problem, that is the problem.

The anti-slosh module is located right behind the fuel gauge in the cluster - Looks like a small board that just slips out.

Hope this helps.

Amen Pitbull 325!!!!

My 2004 did this the other day after my wife filled it up and I know that when the pump stops, she does not top it off (I told her that her car will catch on fire if she does it...she is not car literate, but it works to keep the evap/emissions junk from being replaced when it goes for state inspection)
I will ask if she left the key in the ignition and the doors shut to verify what was said before. The gauge does work now (I drove about 80 miles and it crept up to full, over the first 30 miles and started to drop a little bit after that, again leading me to believe that my wife is afraid of burning her car up Ha Ha)

1999 Explorer XLT - Fuel gauge stopped working

Been reading the threads on the fuel gauge and had this happen to me but after about three months the thing stopped working completely. And the other thing that has happened is that I think I'm hearing a bit of a rattle when I'm low on fuel which at least from my monitoring does not seem to be present when it's full, right after a fillup. Can there be a part of the fuel sensor that could have been jarred loose and is bouncing around inside the tank? Also any ideas on what it woudl take to repair that?

I have a 1996 XLT.. the gas gauge is kinda ####ed up.. When the car is off it'll read something and once you turn it on it'll read something else.. and then when your driving it the gas gauge will go up and then it'll go down again.. I'm not sure which one is right.. if the one when the car is actually off... or when you start it..

Check Engine Light on because of Gas Guage


I have a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport. The gas gauage works intermittantly and causes my check engine light to come on and off, and lately it has been constantly on. If the check engine light is on for any reason when doing a smog check in california, which is needed inorder to re-register the vehicle, the smog test fails.

Does anyone have a solution for this. In fact, I completed a smog test which passed, however, because of the intermittant gas guage, it left a code which the smog test sees as a smog test fail code. All else passed fine!

Can anyone give me an idea as to how to fix this without dropping the tank and replacing the sending unit, and spending my money. LOL

Thanks, Justbreezen

Disregard, old post!

Just checking back on this old thread to see if anyone ever found a solution...

I've had the same problem on my 2002 Ford Explorer for years now. I've gone as far as dropping the tank myself and testing the sending unit.

Thinking about replacing the gauge cluster, but would like to know if anyone's had success with that option.

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Checking back here on an old thread I started almost 8 years ago!

The Explorer doesn't do it any more. That's after running a number of gas treatments through the system, and not topping off tank when filling up.