If you’re anything like most drivers you probably don’t give your car’s gas gauge much thought – until it’s running low on fuel that is. Then it suddenly becomes the most important part of your dash. Of course it’s not always easy to read what with all the different symbols and numbers. Do you know what all those markings on your gas gauge mean?

Here’s a quick primer on how to read a gas gauge on a car so you can avoid that sinking feeling the next time you’re running on empty.

The Needle

The most important part of the gas gauge is of course the needle. In most cases it’s simply a matter of looking at the needle and seeing where it’s pointing to get a general idea of how much fuel you have left.

However it’s not always that simple. First of all the needle may not be positioned directly over the corresponding number or hash mark. In some cases it may be slightly to the left or right. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Secondly the needle may not be perfectly level. Again this is normal and not an indication that there’s anything wrong with your car. In fact most carmakers design their needles to have a slight incline so you can get a more accurate reading when the car is parked on a level surface.

The Dial

The next thing to take note of is the dial itself. In most cases it will be divided into quarters with each quarter representing 25 percent of a tank. However there are also a few different variations that you might encounter.

Some cars for instance have a 10ths of a tank markings. This can be helpful when you’re trying to gauge exactly how much fuel you have left and how far you can go before needing to refuel.

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Other cars may have a “low fuel” warning light instead of quarters. This is usually activated when there’s less than a quarter of a tank left. Once it comes on you’ll want to find a gas station as soon as possible.

Then there are also a few cars that have a “range” indicator. This is usually a small digital readout that tells you how many miles you can expect to travel before running out of gas based on your current fuel level and average mileage.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how to read a gas gauge on a car you can avoid those dreaded “low fuel” warnings and make sure you always have enough gas to get where you’re going. Just remember to keep an eye on that needle and pay attention to the dial and you’ll be good to go.

How can you tell how much fuel is in your car?

By looking at the gas gauge.

How do you read a gas gauge?

By looking at the needle to see where it is pointing.

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What do the numbers on a gas gauge represent?

They represent the percentage of fuel remaining in the tank.

What is the lowest number on a gas gauge?

E which stands for empty.

What does E mean on a gas gauge?


What is the highest number on a gas gauge?

F which stands for full.

What does F mean on a gas gauge?


What happens when the needle is on E?

It means the tank is empty and you need to refuel.

What happens when the needle is on F?

It means the tank is full and you don’t need to refuel.

What is the best time to refuel?

When the needle is around the 1/4 mark.

What does the 1/4 mark on a gas gauge represent?

It means that the tank is one-quarter full.

Is it bad to let your car run low on fuel?

Yes it can damage the fuel pump.

What is the danger of running out of fuel?

The danger of running out of fuel is that you may damage the fuel pump.

What should you do if you run out of fuel?

If you run out of fuel you should call a tow truck.

Is it expensive to tow a car?

Yes it can be expensive to tow a car.

Drew Dorian

I love cars and I love writing about them

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