That's because a wide swath of Nissan vehicles have gas gauges that never read full even after filling up, stop working below 1/4 of a tank, or show a low fuel warning even when there's plenty of miles to go. In other words, they're completely unreliable.
Nissan owners have some trust issues that have them sweating each time they pass a gas station. Should I have filled up again … just in case?
The Reason Nissan Gas Gauges Are Unreliable
The most common cause of all this chaos is issues with resistors in a circuit of the sender unit.
Think of the sender (or sending) unit as the gauge inside the tank which updates the gauge on your dashboard. The unit contains a float that is mounted to a variable resistor. Based on the float’s level, the resistor sends a corresponding electrical current to your dashboard gauge.
So, as the gas in your tank drops –> the float sinks –> the resistance increases –> the resistor sends less current to your dash gauge –> your dash gauge drops –> and you think damn, I need to stop for gas again?
When there are electrical problems in the resistor, it will send the wrong amount of current to the dash gauge. The most common breakpoints for the resistors is when the tank is full (the float is all the way up) or the tank is near empty (the float is nearly all the way down).
If that all sounds very expensive to repair, that’s because it is. Owners report that diagnosis ($100+), sender unit ($250+), and labor ($250+) can cost a pretty penny once it’s all said and done.
Quest Investigation Leads to a Recall
In May 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation after receiving 140 complaints from 2007 Quest owners. According to those complaints, the gauge could be off by as many as 60-80 miles, especially when the tank was less than 1/4 full.
“The driver said she looked at the gas gauge the first time and it displayed another 80 miles to empty. The second time the gauge said the Quest still had enough gas for another 60 miles. The driver had no warning because the low fuel light didn’t illuminate.”
By January 2015, the investigation led to a fuel gauge recall of 68,000 Quests between the 2007-2009 models years.
As part of the investigation, it was found that the inaccurate levels were due to problems with the resistors in a circuit of the sender unit. Nissan found one of two resistors could open and cause false gas gauge readings when the tank is below 1/4 of a tank.
To fix the issue, Nissan installed external amplifier boxes with jumper harness to bypass the electric circuit.
The Recall Doesn’t Go Far Enough
The recall was good news for 2007-2009 Quest owners, but what about everyone else? The gas gauge issues are not specific to the van, it also affects the Gen 3 Altima, Gen 2 Frontier, Gen 1 Rogue, and additional years within the the Gen 3 Quest.