2011 Ford Mustang GT 5.0: TSB in AZ, Part 1
January 14, 2011
With only a couple hundred miles showing on the Mustang GT's odometer, some serious break-in miles were required before we could take the car to the test track. So I set a course for Phoenix, hoping for a quick 800-mile weekend roundtrip to help the Mustang's bits get used to one another.
I made it to Phoenix, but had to make the last 30 miles in the cab of a tow truck.
The first sign of trouble came in Riverside. One moment the fuel gauge shows a half tank remaining and I'm figuring to make a fuel stop near Palm Springs as usual. The next moment, the fuel gauge plummets to almost zero and the distance-to-empty indicator shows only a handful of miles.
With 281.8 miles showing on the Mustang's odometer and 135.5 miles on the tripmeter, we're able to get only 7.883 gallons go into the Mustang's tank. Looks like some electronic gremlins have come along for a ride. Maybe it's the fuel sender? Was the tank actually full when I picked up the car from the parking garage in Santa Monica? A vast majority of new vehicles are typically delivered with some kind of problem, so I don't panic. A car is still a miracle of production quality compared to anything electronic, not to mention something like a new house (apparently we've learned more in 100 years of making automobiles than we've learned in 200 years of making balloon-frame houses).
So with the fuel gauge once again indicating full, I continue to Phoenix.
And then when I reach the Arizona border, the fuel gauge is registering a half tank again when it crashes to zero and the DTE indicator warns of limited range. Just to be safe, I stop for gas again right there on the other side of the Colorado River. With 451.2 miles showing on the Mustang's odometer and 169.4 miles on the tripmeter, I'm able to get only 4.959 gallons into the Mustang's tank, and I have to trigger the pump a little bit at a time during the whole refill in order to make the tank swallow the fuel. Finally the tank burps a little gas out of the capless fuel filler and onto the Mustang's fender so I reckon the tank is brimming.
Clearly seems like a fuel gauge issue to me, so I figure that I'll keep driving the Mustang on the tripmeter just the way I used to ride my Yamaha RD400F. My destination in Phoenix is less than 200 miles away, so I reckon to make it easy without a gas stop.
The fuel gauge crashes again as it hits the half-tank mark in Litchfield on the western side of Phoenix, but with the knowledge that there's plenty of fuel on board, I just kept going. And then in the fast lane of the wide, wide array of lanes on Interstate 10 heading toward the freeway interchange in downtown Phoenix, the Mustang runs out of gas. I know the feeling from past history in endurance racing, so I wriggle the car back and forth to slosh the remaining fuel toward the pickup, but no dice. I'm lucky to get across the traffic to a wide gravel area on an exit ramp.
No worries, this is what your AAA card is for, right? A guy in a service truck shows up within 30 minutes, then I hand over some cash to pay for the fuel, and he goes around to the gas cap filler to pour it in.
Except the AAA guy can't get the spout of his plastic gas can into the Mustang's capless fuel-filler neck. A metal flap within an inch or so of the Mustang's filler opening won't swing aside to admit the spout. The AAA guy looks at me and I look at him and then we both scratch our heads. Maybe we're doing something wrong? This capless fuel-filler thing is relatively new, after all. He replies that his service truck is a Ford F-250 with a capless filler. We walk over to his truck and find that the flapper in the truck's fuel-filler neck swings out of the way free and easy.
Well, maybe the Mustang thinks it's upside-down and has shut down the fuel pump and closed up the fuel system. The owner's manual tells us that you can reset the fuel-pump cutout by just switching on the ignition. We try it. Engine runs but no luck with fuel filler.
The next call goes out to Ford Roadside Assistance, which tracks down the source of our cell phone call and dispatches a tow truck. It's a free tow to the nearest Ford Dealership. The tow truck guys are smart and ask what kind of Mustang I'm driving, since they're concerned about the car's ground clearance with their dolley-type tow rig, so they end up sending a flat bed just in case.
Really, it all seemed like a good idea at the time. We'll continue with the second installment next week.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 591 miles