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5 Answers

How do you use the fuel stick

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Aircraft Systems, General Aviation, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

Not sure how to get an accurate reading with the fuel stick during the preflight. It varies based on where exactly you place the stick in the tank. The bottom isn't flat. Plane is a C172R/S

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5 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Mar 10, 2017

    I’m not sure I understand the question. How much variation is there in the distance to bottom of the tank within the 3″ radius of the opening?

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  2. jqlevy on Mar 10, 2017

    Quite a bit. I’ve never been able to see inside an empty tank so it’s hard to explain but at the bottom of that filler hole there seems to be some sort of metal maze with various dips and ridges. The last “dip” in the very back is the real opening that leads to the rest of the tank. But you can’t really get an accurate measurent there either because the bottom is sloped. Hope that made sense.

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  3. Mark Kolber on Mar 10, 2017

    I’ve flown many 172s and used the FuelHawk and similar sticks and never noticed that large of a discrepancy in a very short range. I made a mistake on the size – I wrote 3″ radius, but I meant 3″ diameter. And, checking, it’s more like a 2.5″ diameter, or a total of 1.5″ from the center.

    I just can’t visualize that much of a meaningful discrepancy within 1.5″ from the center of the opening. Here’s two suggestions:

    1. Get together with a CFI or mechanic who can show you the proper location.
    2. Use the stick when you have a known quantity in the tanks, including full. When the stick line and the known amount coincide, you’ve hit the correct spot.

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  4. Jim F. on Mar 11, 2017

    Fuel up to a known level, such as to the tabs (17.5gals, IIRC) and then dip it and compare the reading. Test by bottoming-out in different locations and see what sort of variance you get, end most importantly, remember where you get the most accurate reading, in order to replicate.

    Obviously, this isn’t all that accurate, but neither are the actual fuel gauges. Really about the only way to be sure what you have in the tanks is to get a fuel totalizer.

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  5. Mark Kolber on Mar 12, 2017

    Even a toalizer has limitations, Jim.

    They can be incredibly accurate on fuel flow but some require calibration (I was in an airplane that had two showing different GPH numbers).

    More importantly, the ones used in GA aircraft typically rely on you telling them how much fuel is in the tank or added. Those nice digital fuel gauges? They exactly the same information as the bouncing analog ones we all know and love and are just as (in)accurate.

    IOW, once properly set up, a totalizer will be very accurate telling you how much was =used=. But it’s calculatio of how much is =left= is dependent on manual input if the right information.

    GIGO

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