How to Tell If You Have Gas in Your Tank

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If you are having problems starting or keeping your engine running, you may have run out of gas in your tank. If you do not have a gas gauge or you think that you gas gauge is malfunctioning, there are a few simple ways to tell if there is gas present or not. Trying to run an engine with little or no gas can create numerous problems, from bringing sediment from the tank into the fuel line to creating an air block. It is best to figure out if there is gas without trying to run the engine.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat head screwdriver
  • 3' piece of cotton rope
  • Shake the tank if the engine you are attempting to run is small enough to do so. If you can hear liquid sloshing inside, then there is likely gas in your tank. If you cannot shake the tank for any reason, continue on to the next step.

  • Open the tank and smell it. If it smells strongly of gas--strong enough to slightly hurt your nose--then there is gas in the tank. If it smells like gas, or you cannot tell, then you have likely run out of fuel.

  • Take a piece of cotton rope and feed one end of it into the tank until the rope feels like it has hit the bottom of the tank.

  • Draw the rope back out of the tank and examine the end. If it is dry, then there is no gas in the tank. If it is only slightly damp, then you most likely have too little gas for the engine to function.

  • Using a flat head screwdriver, remove the hose clamp and hose from the inlet side of your fuel filter, or disconnect the fuel line feeding into the carburetor.

  • Engage the fuel pump and wait 15 seconds. If no gas pumps out of the end of the hose, then there is no fuel.

Tips & Warnings

  • Remember that the type of driving or activity of a machine can greatly effect the gas consumption of an engine. Do not assume that just because gas was recently added to the tank that it has not already been used.
  • Climate, such as extreme hot weather, can also affect the consumption of fuel.
  • When smelling a tank for the presence of gas, be careful that you do not spend too long trying to detect fumes. Gas fumes can be poisonous in concentrated amounts. Open the tank and sniff it quickly. Once will be enough to tell you if there is gas in the tank or not.
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