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Auto Q&A with Tom Torbjornsen: Digital fuel display woes

This could be a problem with the float on the sending unit.
This could be a problem with the float on the sending unit.

Dear Tom,
I own a pristine ’91 Cadillac Eldorado. When the digital display on the fuel gauge hits 4 gallons, the numeral 4 does not drop down to 3, 2 or empty to tell me when the car is out of fuel; it remains on 4. So, I have to watch the mileage meter to determine when the tank is almost empty. Any ideas? Also, whenever I turn on the headlights, I get an awful screaming noise out of the stock radio speakers. The noise will continue even when I turn the radio off.
Joel from Rochester, N.Y.

The fuel gauge operates off a sending unit in the fuel tank. This unit sends a signal to the instrument cluster, and it registers on the fuel gauge. You could have a problem with the float on the sending unit. It may not be going all the way down when the fuel level goes low, so that the instrument cluster does not displaying the proper signal. Or the fuel gauge issue could be related to the headlight problem that you described. The headlight concern could possibly be a bad or corroded ground wire that’s feeding back to the fuel gage showing the incorrect fuel level and causing the screaming noise through the radio speakers. Have a tech check it out. Good luck.

Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 37 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the IMPA (International Motor Press Association) and MPG (Motor Press Guild), Torbjornsen is the Repair and Maintenance Editor for AOL Autos, At Home Portals and many other websites. Please send your car questions to his website at


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