How much fuel do you have in your tanks? The fuel gauge says you have half a tank, but do you have enough fuel for your journey? There is a better way to know how much fuel you have, The Dip Stick.
A dipstick is a graduated measuring device that tells you exactly how many gallons of fuel (or water) you have in your tank. Dipsticks can either be un-calibrated (measuring the inches of fuel) or calibrated (measuring the gallons).
Dipsticks are easy to calibrate. Simply start with an empty tank:
Add 1 gallon, insert the stick and mark the wet line on the stick.
Add 4 more gallons, insert the stick and mark the wet line on the stick.
Add 5 more gallons, insert the stick and mark the wet line on the stick.
Add 10 more gallons, insert the stick and mark the wet line on the stick.
Continue adding 10 more gallons, inserting the stick and marking the wet lines on the stick until the tank is full.
This will give you a dipstick with 10 gallon increments, ending with a 5 gallon mark, and a 1 gallon mark. When you check your tank, you will know if you have less then 1 gallon, less than 5 gallons, or many gallons of fuel present.
A calibrated dipstick will accurately tell you exactly how much fuel you have present in your tank. This takes all the guessing out of estimating how much fuel you are carrying at any time.
The problem with dipsticks is they make checking the fuel level time consuming. You need to get the dipstick out, get to the tank, open the top of the tank, put the dipstick in, pull it out, read it, clean the dipstick, close the top of the tank, put the dipstick away. If you are alone and need to leave the helm to do this, you might be away from the helm for too long for safety. If you are in a power boat running along at 20 knots and you take 6 min to perform the task, you just covered 2nm without standing watch. If you take longer to complete the reading, you will cover even more ground! This proves unsafe and would require you to bring the boat to a stop and check the fuel level while bobbing around in Neutral.
The alternative is to check the fuel level by looking at a fuel gauge. You take a glance at the gauge, and it tells you a rough idea of how much fuel you have in your tank.
The combination of checking your tanks with a dipstick before setting off and then monitoring with gauge readings is the best compromise for evaluating fuel levels.
Dipsticks are valuable instruments to verify the amount of fuel stored within a tank and should not be completely replaced by an electronic gauge. Gauges are more convenient, but the accuracy of a dipstick is impossible to beat!