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Your vehicle’s fuel pressure gauge is one of those gauges you don’t really pay much attention to until a problem arises. While we’re all busy keeping an eye on the coolant temperature gauge or oil pressure gauge, we don’t usually check our car’s fuel pressure gauge until the vehicle starts giving us a reason to check it. Meaning, a miss, or a drivability issue as a result of lackluster fuel pressure. When that happens, our eyes are glued to the fuel pressure gauge to help diagnose the problem. Looking at our website, you may be intimidated by the many fuel pressure gauge options, but we’re here to help you pick the right one for your ride.

What Are the Different Types of Fuel Pressure Gauges?

To keep it simple, there are really two types of fuel pressure gauges, which are mechanical and electric, sometimes referred to as an electronic fuel pressure gauge. Mechanical fuel pressure gauges mount along the fuel lines or at the regulator, whereas an electric fuel pressure gauge uses a sending unit and wiring to make it possible to have the gauge inside the car. Mechanical fuel gauges must be located either in the engine compartment or mounted within sight on the exterior cowl or the back of the cowl hood opening. This is because a mechanical fuel pressure gauge must see fuel, and you don’t want that inside the car in case of a leak or fire.

An electric fuel pressure gauge, since it uses a sending unit and wiring to send a fuel pressure signal to the gauge, can be mounted inside the car. Being able to have the electric fuel pressure gauge inside the car makes it easier to troubleshoot any unforeseen drivability issues. With a mechanical fuel pressure gauge, if you don’t have it already mounted to the cowl or the cowl hood opening, you must rig up a test fitting and line so that you can see the gauge while driving the car.

An electric fuel pressure gauge is more expensive than a mechanical fuel pressure gauge, but to have the electronic fuel pressure gauge inside the car, and easily read, is a great option.

How Does a Fuel Gauge Work?

A mechanical fuel pressure gauge is installed most often at the fuel pressure regulator or attached to an inline fitting in the fuel lines. There are various ways a fuel pressure gauge does its job. Most mechanical fuel pressure gauges utilize what are called Bourdon tubes that use pressure to move the needle to the indicated amount of pressure in a mechanical instrument.

With an electric fuel pressure gauge, or electronic fuel pressure gauge, this arrangement uses a sending unit to send a signal to either an analog needle gauge, or a digital readout fuel pressure gauge. You can find a wide range of electronically controlled fuel pressure gauges that use a pressure sensor to feed the instruments readout area, be it analog or digital.

How Accurate Are Fuel Gauges?

Fuel pressure gauges are like tire pressure gauges. How many times have you gone between two tire pressure gauges and received different numbers? Probably more than once. However, the plus or minus between gauges is just a couple psi. At most, there’s maybe a 2 percent inaccuracy window, so regardless, the gauge is still very accurate. If you have an OBD-II vehicle, you can check fuel pressure gauge accuracy by plugging into a diagnostic tool to get an exact reading straight from the vehicle’s computer. Many people prefer a digital fuel pressure gauge as opposed to an analog or mechanical fuel pressure gauge because a digital fuel pressure gauge is considered by many to be more accurate. A false fuel pressure reading can be an issue as well. Low fuel pressure will reveal itself, so if your fuel pressure gauge appears to be reading properly, but drivability issues point to a fuel pressure issue, trying a different gauge is needed to confirm your gauge is reading correctly. With liquid-filled fuel pressure gauges mounted under the hood, excessive engine temperatures can cause fuel pressure fluctuation as well.

What Causes Fuel Pressure Gauge Failure?

Causes of a fuel pressure gauge failure include excessive vibration, high temperatures, spikes in pressure or too high a fuel pressure exceeding the gauge’s reading window, rust issues, mechanical damage, and the like. A liquid-filled fuel pressure gauge is more durable than what are called “dry gauges” that use stepper motors. The liquid aids in absorbing vibration, whereas a dry gauge’s internals can get damaged due to excessive vibration.

When it comes to fuel pressure spikes or excessive fuel pressure, a fuel psi gauge is available for either a carbureted or EFI fuel system, so if you’re running EFI you will obviously need a fuel pressure gauge capable of reading more than 12-15 pounds of fuel pressure. Most carburetor-specific fuel pressure gauges max out at 15 psi, whereas many EFI fuel pressure gauges read up to 100 psi. An in-line fuel pressure gauge, depending on where it’s mounted, is possibly open to more damage. However, most are still mounted under the hood, so there’s less chance of corrosive or mechanical damage in that area.

Do I Need a Specific Fuel Pressure Gauge for Different Types of Fuel?

No, any fuel pressure gauge is compatible with all different types of fuel. Any fuel pressure gauge can do the job. You won’t have to get a specific diesel fuel pressure gauge for your tow vehicle, or an E85-specific in-line fuel pressure gauge. If it’s a fuel pressure gauge, it doesn’t care what fuel is being used in the lines/fittings that the gauge is tapped into.