The Amazing Bouncing Gas Gauge

Some of us have been fortunate enough to own a vehicle which transported us to the places we needed to go countless times. That car however, the one that we look back upon with wistful nostalgia, had its quirks.

For Stick Chick, the old Dodge Intrepid, later traded for a more practical family mobile, grows in its legend with time. Truly fun to drive, it could get out of its own way to beat traffic congestion. One of its questionable flaws was the failing automatic door locks.

Each of the four electronic door locks failed in turn, costing a tidy $200 each time to replace. It wasn’t so much that they failed, but rather when they failed, they gave no advance warning. Instead, at a most inopportune moment, depressing the interior lock button caused a surprisingly loud grinding noise (akin to a game show fail buzzer) to reverberate from within the door panel. Easily heard both inside and out of the car, this sound always attracted curious onlookers.

That grated Stick Chick’s last good nerve and forced an immediate call to the dealer for a service appointment. Had it happened only once, a fond recollection might have been archived as in, “Remember when you parallel parked in the city, stepped out of the car and pushed the lock button that buzzed just as the skateboarder careened by, causing him to jump off his board, flip it into his hand, and to take off running in fear? Those were the days.”

Stick Chick dubbed the unique feature that set her Intrepid apart from the rest “the amazing bouncing gas gauge.” The first time she noticed the oddity came as a shock. To appreciate the occasion, you should know that as a standard feature, the Intrepid’s gas pump icon light normally appeared when the fuel approached 1/8 tank. A single audible bell accompanied each occasion when the dashboard light turned on. The combination of the light and the bell insured she never ran out of gas.


Stick Chick is of the opinion that the fewer occasions to visit the pump, the better, so her habit had been to fill the tank whenever she got gas. One day, she stopped for fuel and tanked up as usual. Later that day, while setting her usual land speed records on a local highway, Stick Chick happily minded the traffic. Suddenly the low fuel light came on and the bell rang “Ping!”

In that instant, Stick Chick looked in her rear view mirror wholly expecting to see fuel splotched and trailing behind her on the highway aflame just like in a movie. When she saw nothing unusual, her brain registered, “Check fuel light,” and her eye caught a millisecond of the red needle moving upward seemingly filling the tank with fuel. By then she had removed her foot from the throttle and her heart pounded as she tried to make sense of that she saw and heard.

“I need a day off,” she thought.

Several days later, it happened again. Periodically, sometimes the day after a rainy day, but not always, the red needle would drop, the light would turn on and the bell would ping and the needle would bounce back up to its former location. No pattern presented itself, and it never occurred while in for service. She saw no harm and therefore no reason not to name the phenomenon and embrace it for its idiosyncrasy.

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