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Hagerty Employee

Repairing, not replacing, a fuel level sender saved me $200

When I pulled my 1972 BMW 2002tii out of winter storage a few weeks ago and began driving it around, I was surprised to find that the gas gauge didn’t work. This was very surprising, as I’d last used the car for a near-thousand-mile trip back home from where it had been sitting in a friend’s warehouse in Cincinnati for six months. I’m sure that if the gas gauge hadn’t been working on the drive home, I would’ve noticed and remembered it. But surprises are, by definition, things that you don’t expect. So I set about testing whether the problem was the level sensor/sender or the gauge itself.


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May want to try adding a small resistor in series. 5-10 ohms perhaps. That might get it closer on the empty end. The full reading might be a bit off but then you pretty much know there’s gas in there then right? Could even try a small pot to ‘trim’ the empty setting.

Intermediate Driver

Personally, with that much effort for the overall repair, I would spend the $200 and know the sender will be right and will not fail in some other way (brittle plastic) down the road. It is hard enough to keep our beloved antiques on the road without having to re-do repairs.

Advanced Driver

So, TB, HOW do you personally gather the courage to get out of bed in the AM??
Intermediate Driver

Tom has a valid point. More than once have I repaired some portion of a part only to have some other portion of it fail. I had one repair very similar to this fuel tank sender where the plastic base cracked as I was reassembling it all. In the end, I would have saved time and money just paying the money for the new (or factory refurbished) part instead.
New Driver

excellent write up.  most american cars have the toilet float design.   also i would shy away from using emery in low resistance cases as it is a good insulator


You remind me of my farm-raised father. "Replace" was not in his vocabulary. As far as he was concerned there was nothing that couldn't be fixed with epoxy, baling wire, and odd pieces of junk we had laying around. But he would not have wasted money on buying new wire; he would have just cut a piece out of some junked electrical heater. If you include the cost of labor some of his fixes ended up costing way more that a replacement part would have - for example, rather than buy a new lawnmower he would always buy one at Goodwill and then completely rebuild it. Fun fact - our epoxy was always flesh colored because he got it for free from the dental supply company he worked for. It was suppose to be used to make the gum part of dentures. 


some don't get it, some do. Its not about time'n money (as those who do, know).  There's enuff of that in the 9 ta 5. This is a-vocation not vo-casion. The more necessary of life. In fact you'd get the most kudos for the longest period on the acreage w/o the defeat of goin to town (not a short trip) for purchase.  As Zephyr sez, everything needed was here... C-19? nuttin ! Zombie Apocalypse? easy pie!

New Driver

I too have repaired a fuel sending unit.  In my case it has been on a 1971 VW Karmann Ghia.  The issue I was faced with was a gas gage that had a spot where the needle would jump around from a full reading to an empty reading.  As it turned out, it was a combination of corrosion on the float contacts and on the resistance wire.  Using 1000 grit wet/dry paper cleaned both and the gage worked fine.  The float on this vehicle is very similar to the BMW float in Rob's article.  Be very careful in cleaning the resistance wire.  It is very easy to deform it where it is no longer straight.


Uh...yeah....I just realized that I have a couple of hundred bucks that really aren't doing anything worthwhile so................!!!!


How well does the original sender stand up to today’s fuel blends? When I replaced the fuel pump and sending unit on my classic car with a modern all-in-one unit, the paperwork indicated it was 100% compatible with all modern fuels. The original setup most certainly was not. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to repair it.

Anymore it is getting best to replace parts vs repair and saving the repair on the removed part once the NOS part is no longer available. 

Today many parts are becoming difficult to find and if you can it is best to go new and just save the old part for repair should it not be available.