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?
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.
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.
|Nissan||Altima||2005 / 2006|
|Frontier||2005 / 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010|
|Rogue||2005 / 2006 / 2007|
|Quest||2005 / 2006 / 2007|
On the Record
“Driving along in peak traffic and suddenly vehicle shuts off. No power steering and almost involved in accidents both occasions the first time I was alone the second time I had my grand babies with me and that was terrifying for them as the other road users were whizzing past...”
“As of 2 weeks ago, immediately after filling up, I noticed that the fuel gauge wasn't showing a full tank. I thought maybe the float was stuck and would work it's way loose. After a day, the "Service Engine" lite came on and the fuel gauge showed "E", like when the engine hasn't started. A search of the internet revealed this was a common problem on the Frontiers.”
“Gas light never came on to say low on fuel. Was driving coming home from getting my kids from school and the car came to a complete stop in traffic. Thank God no one hit us from behind. It happened more than once. Finally had fuel pump replaced.”
OK, Now What?
A recall is usually good news, but not always:
- Recalls don't always cover everyone affected
- Sometimes it can be a pain in the butt to get your free fix
- Every so often the fix doesn't work and brings on a new headache
If you find yourself in one of those situations, or have something else to add, share your story so we can get it the attention it deserves.
File Your Complaint at CarComplaints.com
CarComplaints.com is a free site dedicated to uncovering problem trends and informing owners about potential issues with their cars. Major class action law firms use this data when researching cases.
Notify the Center for Auto Safety
The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) is a pro-consumer organization that researches auto safety issues & often compels the US government to do the right thing through lobbying & lawsuits.
Report a Safety Concern to NHTSA
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the US agency with the authority to conduct vehicle defect investigations & force recalls. Their focus is on safety-related issues.
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