Jun 19, 2012 - Technical, Towing and Toad    11 Comments

“Check Gauge” Light on my 2000 Ford Ranger

When I was out running errands on Saturday, my first stop was a gas station since I left with the needle way too close to the red empty line. Like on the way to Brooks, the gauge moved from ‘you have gas’ to ‘you are running on fumes’ very quickly. But unlike on that trip, a light saying ‘check gauge’ came on.


I got my fuel then pulled over to check the manual. As a side note, like with my Accent, I have a fully tricked out ride so all the little extras in the manual apply to me. 🙂

‘Check gauge’ could mean:

1) engine temp is too hot (nope)

2) low oil (nope)

3) fuel tank near empty (ha ha!)

I did some research and learned that that light should come on when you have about 3 gallons of gas left in the tank. Hmm. I did the math and when I took on fuel in Brooks, I had about 2 gallons of gas left, but the light did not come on.

So is my ‘check gauge’ light faulty or is my math faulty? I think I need to double check the capacity of my tank, but it looks like I have a 19.5 gallon tank according to what I can find online. I haven’t calculated my gas mileage, but the numbers on this US government page put it at 18 miles per gallon combined highway and city, which sounds about right. If that’s the case, when I landed in Brooks with 2 gallons in the tank expecting to stall at any second I could have probably done another 36 miles!

I’m not obsessed with my gas mileage, but I do like to know how far I can go when the gas gauge dips into the red. With my Accents, I knew I could do at least 30KM once the ‘check fuel’ gauge came on and I would find comfort in knowing this information for my Ranger. I want to find that sweet spot where I am taking on enough fuel to make the stop worthwhile without actually running on fumes.

I am amused by how the manual puts the worst case scenario at the top of the list for this gauge and then runs down to the least alarming one!

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  • Most times there is some amount of gas in the tank that is not usable. The shape of the tank or the location of the fuel pick up line, leave a certain amount in the tank that can not be used. So I am guessing you were pretty low!

  • Well, I did some research on a couple of forums and the consensus is that when that light comes on, you can count on being able to drive 30 miles at least. So I can treat that light like the one in my Accent, provided that it comes on consistently. But I am trying to get fuel as soon as I dip below the quarter tank mark.

  • I don’t like to go below 1/4 tank either. Some people take a container of gas along and deliberately drive it to use up all the gas just so they know exactly where the gauge is empty. Then add the measured gas in the container so they know exactly where that amount is on the gauge. Gas gauges are notoriously inaccurate. Most are set to say empty before it actually is empty. I’ve never done the test because I never cut it that close. I’d rather stop a bit more frequently and be sure that I never get close to running out. I think of it as insurance. I aim to fill it at a bit under 1/2. Even in my van when 1/4 means there’s another 100 miles left. You never know when you might end up needing it. Comes from the cop who said women should always have at least a 1/2 tank so she can keep going in case someone decides to chase her.

  • I think it’s good that there is reserve fuel in the tank when you reach the E line to give you time to get to the gas station.

    I’ve learned that it’s a bad idea to run out of fuel, so I desperately want to avoid doing that!

  • Sometimes the check-light comes on when the gas cap is not tightened sufficiently. Since you had just refueled, it could be the cap was not seated properly. Often, just opening and reattaching the cap will do the trick. I’ve heard three clicks when screwing on the cap is a good practice.

  • Pleinguy, maybe my post wasn’t clear. The light came on before I fueled. But that wasn’t the right light for an improperly cap, which triggers the ‘check engine’ rather than ‘check gauge’ light.

  • I have a nissan sentra 2010 model, and it flashes how many miles I have left in the tank, nice to know late at night when a lot of the gas staions are closed.

  • Just thought, it may not be a good idea to run the tank too low as there is a fuel pump that is kept ‘cool’ by the fuel. Continued ‘low fuel’ incidents may make the fuel pump expire early. I’m not a mechanic and from I understand, most vehicles have fuel pumps inside the tank.


  • Gina, I have a friend with a sensor like that, but the numbers vary depending on a lot of conditions, so she doesn’t rely on it.

    Mark, that is my understanding, too, which is why I try to hit the gas station ASAP after getting the ‘you need fuel’ light if I haven’t been able to get there sooner.

  • The “check gauges” light on my ’91 Buick is on most of the time. Sometimes if I hit a bump it goes off. When it comes back on, saying to check gauges I glance at the dash, yep all the gauges are still there, and go on with my day. 🙂
    The gas gauge will sometimes say “low fuel” when it’s just been filled. Do you suppose something is a little wonky???

  • Linda, that’s hilarious!

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