GM Gas Gauge Problems

Is it accurate? Probably not.

GM’s gauges are flip-flopping more than a politician during campaign season.

One of the more infamously problems with GM vehicles is a faulty fuel gauge that often leaves owners wondering just how much gas is left in their tank. Whether the gauge reads empty after a fill-up, or full while the car is actually running on fumes, there’s one thing for certain: the darn thing is just wrong.

No Idea How Much Gas is Left in the Tank

The problem affects over 30 GM models, but these vehicles in particular have the highest incidence rate of gas gauge problems:

Make Model Years
Buick Rainier 2005-2007
Chevrolet Trailblazer 2003-2007
GMC Envoy 2003-2007
Saab 9-7X 2005-2007

Two Possible Problems For the Price of One

There’s two possible fail points for this fuel gauge problem, because come on – you knew it couldn’t be simple. The trick is finding out which problem is plaguing your car (if not both … lucky you).

Instrument Cluster Failure

A common problem with many GM vehicles is to have a faulty intrument cluster. This is especially true in higher mileage vehicles. The problem is due to defective drive motors that fizzle out on the circuit board over time.

Because this is so widespread, repairs are sometimes covered under warranty if your vehicle has under 70k miles and you’re really good at jumping through hoops. You know, like circus-good.

If your vehicle is having this problem, it’s likely that more than one gauge is failing. So if your fuel gauge is broken, check to see if any of the other gauges – like the speedometer and engine temp reading – are acting up.

Fuel Level Sensor Failure

Each fuel tank is equipped with a level sensor that bathes in all that glorious ethanol and monitors the amount of fuel left in the tank. Most fuel sensors don’t like an empty swimming pool so when the fuel level gets too low they send you a signal to fill ’er up. Unless, of course, the sensor is defective which appears to be the case in many GM vehicles.

The fuel level sensor in these cars are defective. If you have a high-mileage vehicle some sat it’s best just to replace the entire fuel pump assembly.

A Government Investigation

In May 2011, NHTSA[1] opened an investigation[2] into the 2005–07 Trailblazer as well as the GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier and Saab 9–7X. The investigation looked into “defective fuel gauges that give innaccurate fuel level readings.”

“Of the 668 complaints, 58 incidents were alleged to result in a vehicle stall,” said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in its defect investigations summary. “Of the 58 stalling incidents, 43 complaints reported stalling because the fuel level reading indicated more fuel availability than what is actually in the fuel tank.” “One complaint alleged a vehicle crash after the vehicle stalled while exiting the interstate, became disabled and was struck from behind.”

The investigation didn’t amount to a recall, which is odd. NHTSA only issues recalls in the event of a safety defect and stalling out in the middle of the highway because your fuel gauge is broken seems like a safety issue to me. Unless I misunderstand what safety means? Let’s check:

“the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss”[3]

Nope, I understand it perfectly. Apparently NHTSA needs the vocabulary lesson.


Actions You Can Take

This step is crucial, don't just complain on forums! The sites below will actively manage your complaints and turn them into useful statistics. Both CarComplaints.com and the CAS will report dangerous trends to the authorities and are often called upon by law firms for help with Class Action lawsuits. Make sure to file your complaint on all three sites, we can't stress that enough.

  1. Step 1: 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. Add a Complaint

  2. Step 2: 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. Notify the CAS

  3. Step 3: 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. Report to NHTSA

What Other Owners Have Said

“I’m not a “ranter or whiner”. But…it was really frustrating traveling to Colorado this week to visit our son. The gas gauge would say empty and we had just filled it up. You drive a few miles and look down…and oops the gas gauge is functioning. It does this on a continuous basis. How would you like to run out of gas in the middle of Nebraska heading home to Iowa. Yipes.” alexsteve, Mason City, IA, USA

“Much like everyone else on here I have a 2007 Trailblazer that the gas gauge reads empty all the time… I too have called the GM complaint line on two seperate occasions.. The most recent being today after running out of gas yesterday because of a miscalculation. They must have a script there that they read off of for this complaint because the person there responded word for word what I was told back in November.” Chris H., Overland Park, KS

“This should be a recall. Everybody that I talk to with a Trailblazer has the same problem. Why should I have to pay hundreds to fix Chevy’s problem?” tromeo, Youngstown, Ohio


  1. NHTSA is an acronym for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  ↩

  2. Source: NHTSA  ↩

  3. Definition of Safety by Merriam-Webster  ↩

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Chevrolet Customer Assistance Center

P.O. Box 33170 Detroit MI 48232-5170