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Replacement Floats in Tank Continue to Go Bad

February 06, 1986|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | Times Staff Writer

Question: Our car is a 1970 Plymouth Satellite four-door sedan with only 39,138 miles. In November, 1984, the gas gauge went out, and we had a new float installed. Eight months later, it went out again, and we had another new float put in. Just six months later it failed again. My question is: Why would the original float last 14 years and the new ones only last six months? At $90 per float, this can get rather expensive.--K.H.

Answer: It's unlikely that both the new floats are defective, so you have to look into the possibility that you have some kind of condition inside the gas tank that is attacking the new floats.

The gas gauges on almost all cars operate by receiving electrical signals from a gauge inside the gas tank. The gauge operates by a float that rises and falls with the gas level. The float is connected to a variable resistor that controls the electrical signal sent to the dashboard gauge.

Since the floats are made of brass, under no circumstances should they corrode in only a matter of months. The float unit's electrical components, however, could be attacked by contaminants that would cause corrosion and failure.

Since your car has only 39,138 miles on it after 16 years, the car is used very lightly and may sit idle for long periods of time. Under those circumstances, it's not unusual for water to condense inside the tank. That causes corrosion and sludge to form, which can result in a lot worse problems than a broken gas gauge.

You should have your mechanic flush out your gas tank if you get any more failed floats. If you aren't going to drive your car much, it's a good idea to keep the tank filled. That will minimize water condensation.

Q: A brake shop recommended that I replace the brake pads on my 1968 Datsun wagon with the metallic type. Will these last longer than the regular pads?--W.G.G.

A: Metallic pads have a higher content of metal grains than regular pads, which makes them harder and longer wearing. It also makes them vulnerable to glazing and brake squeal, however.

If your original-equipment brake pads are wearing out prematurely, you should probably switch to a metallic-type pad.

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