King-Seeley Gas Gauge

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • Author
  • #425003

    My gas gauge (dash part) for my 1933 model 836 is plugged.  I have it out of the dash and have been trying to get liquid to flow through it for about a week.  Bulletins 79-3 and others say they can be cleaned with alcohol, so I have been using that but to no effect.  The Bulletins also say to not loose the calibration wire.  I don’t have that problem because the wire will not come out of the unit.  And something I didn’t expect, looking down in the brass tube I can see the ends of 3 wires; 2 of one size and one a little smaller.  The tube is too small to reach down as far as the wire ends to see if they can be pulled out.  Should I try to pull them out?  Can I try more aggressive solvent to clear the plug?  Thank you in advance for any help.  Don Andersen


    I soaked the one from my 31 for a little over a month before giving up and getting a replacement unit. I still haven’t added the fluid as the car was apart for so long so I still don’t know if it will work…

    here’s the link to the replacement I found, you have to type in king seeley and there’s two pages, that second page had my unit. I am not familiar with your later car and it might be different





    The wires are to calibrate the gauge, if you get them out just make sure you put them back. The total crosssection and of the wires adjusts how much fluid drops in the brass reservoir and rises in the glass. It allows a standard gauge to be adjusted to different tank configurations of different cars.
    I used lacquer thinner.


    Mark and James, thank you for your responses.  I always like to use original parts when I can but realize the sometimes I can’t.  So it is good to know a source of a replacement part.  And I will try a more aggressive solvent.  Nothing to loose because the gauge is not usable now.  Thank you again,  Don


    Has anybody tried a different fluid in their King Seeley gas gauge?  I know that King Seeley said theirs is the only one that will work and I would say that too if I was selling a few ounces of liquid at todays price of $20.  As a chemist I would think there would be a modern day fluid that could be colored and would not be corrosive.  I have 3 of these gauges, 2 for my ’28 Studebaker and one for my ’33 Pierce.  Faces on all 3 are corroded and one is so badly corroded that it can not be used.  The specified fluid is colorable, low volatility, medium viscosity, corrosive and a good paint remover.  There must me other fluids that will have the same properties except not the last 2, but I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  So, if someone else has found a good substitute, I’ll be good with it.  If not, I will do some research on my own for something I can use and recommend to others.  Thank you,  Don


    The reason for the King Seally fluid is it is unusual in having a density about 3 times more than water, 4 times more than gasoline and makes it feasible. Basically this is a static manometer, if you used gasoline in the gauge and the difference in height in the tank between empty and full was 12″ you would need a 12″ high gauge in the instrument panel-well actually about 6 inch height based on the total difference in height when the level in the brass reservoir drops as it rises in the glass with a full tank. The amount it drops on the brass tube reservoir behind the glass is the calibration the little rods do.
    I have toyed with the idea of leaving the little cap off above the glass tube and adding a small tube stuck in the tip of the glass to allow it to vent outside the gauge to prevent the corrosion. A bit worrisome because the fluid is toxic, but even in the gauge it isn’t sealed so any vapor would eventually leak out anyway. Presumeably the amounts are negligible.
    Since I think the majority of guys seem to have given up on making this wacky gauge work anyway, you could dye a fluid and leave it disconnected, or use the WD40
    red tube trick. I talked to some Ford guys who also give the advice that they can’t keep them working. I haven’t given up yet, but I also don’t have a car I can drive to get the experience.


    The WD-40 Solution, that is, the Red Tube that James mentioned, is the foolproof method.

    I bought the kit with the new brass tube, ran it forward to my gauge, installed the fluid with a full tank of gas and then became frustrated when it did not work.

    Later, I considered the WD-40 solution, but have yet to install it.

    Now, I just fill up before any significant drives.

    BTW, I believe that Chris Diekman knows how to properly install the K-S system and make it functional.

    Good luck on your quest.



    The problem with this system is that it MUST be perfectly sealed.  There cannot be ANY air leakage between the sender in the tank, through the fitting on the sender, through the tiny tube that runs up under the car to then enter the passenger compartment behind the dashboard. Then attached to the fitting on the glass tube that we then see the red fluid in.

    Think of it this way: the sender is a brass straw, the weight of the gasoline is pushing air through the sender, through the long tiny tube, then into the visible glass tube in the instrument.  The weight of the gasoline only exerts pressure on the trapped air in the system.  The heavy red fluid just moves up or down depending on the weight [pressure] exerted on this long tube full of air..

    So ANY leak in the long tube-system will release the pressure in the tube that pushes the red fluid up the corresponding amount.

    My ’32 Model 54 Convertible coupe has a working KS fuel gauge.. The worst thing is that the red dye in the fluid bleaches out very quickly, even stored inside, out of sunlight.. It goes from red to clear in less than a year..

    When the car has not been driven for a month or so, the [usually clear] fluid level is low.  But just jostling the car a bit or backing it out of the shop and down the driveway will usually bring the fluid up into the gauge.  SEEING the clear fluid in the glass tube is difficult.. but doable.

    So: make sure there are NO leaks in the system and it will work.

    Greg Long




    Similiar to Greg, I had the fluid in my KS gauge go from bright red to clear suddenly in a two week period after bring fine for several months. It was sitting in the garage out of the car after testing the system.
    Y’all may recall that I started a test of KS fluid color loss a few years ago trying to figure out what was causing it. It is still a head scratcher. I put samples of fluid obtained from Classic and Exotic and Mac’s into glass vials. Some were exposed with only simple glass covers, others had UV blocking glass. After my nephew suggested it was likely a reaction with the copper in the tube and brass reservoir I dropped some copper and brass bits in new samples. Those turned from bright red to more brownish fairly quickly after, but not clear.
    I had all the samples hanging outside my garage for a year and a half in the intense high desert sun. None of them turned clear, the red became darker. So it remains a mystery. The fluid I had in the gauge that suddenly did turn had been stored in its black light blocking bag but was about 15 years old when I finally took it out.
    As Greg says the seal between sending unit and gauge is critical, but another piece of the puzzle is the sending unit in the tank which has very tiny holes and tiny tubes that must transport air bubbles down the tubes and under the air dome to recharge the air dome when the tank is sloshed around. If the holes are plugged it won’t recharge. On my sending unit the tiny hole under the air dome was blocked with fuel varnish. I say air bubbles, but in reality they are fuel vapor bubbles. I suspect that the reason the air line loses pressure even with a perfect seal after sitting for awhile is some of fuel vapor in the dome reliquifies. The repair instructions for the gauge say to remove the air tube connection at the gauge and backflow air to purge any liquid fuel in the airline that would cause erratic readings. I wondered how liquid fuel could even get into the line the way it is set up. I am thinking it is because it is not air, it is fuel vapor and fuel heated up on a hot day drive might condense in the tiny line. My theory of tbe moment.


    Thank you all for your input.  The KS gauge sounds like a problematic item the even when working can not be described as working well.  I have not heard of the WD-40 solution.  Can you fill me in on that?  Thanks again,  Don


    It is just a cheat to make it look like it woks. You cut a piece off the little red tube that comes strapped to a can of WD40 and drop it into the glass. You chose what level you want to see based on the length cut. Of course it doesn’t read fuel level but will stay red. Then you track miles on the odometer to refuel.
    I haven’t given up and this round on KS has given me another idea to keep one working, but will be awhile before I have a driving car to try it out.


    It is far easier to just top-off your gas tank each time you go for a drive than it is to get a K-S gas gauge to work properly.

    The K-S gas gauge is why God created electric gas gauges.


    At the other end of the system is this. This one is listed as Packard, but it looks identical to my ’33. The vendor says they have other applications

Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.