Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Anaheim, CA, USA
Finally Bitten by the Fuel Gauge Strip - 2007 K1200GT
I am well over 50 years old. One of my very small points of pride is that I have never run out of gas. Not once. Until last Thursday. I foolishly thought that I was one of the lucky ones who had a K1200GT fuel gauge strip that worked. It never let me down. Until last Thursday.
The fuel gauge had been slowly dropping as always, and the reserve light had lit as expected. My destination was only a mile away, and I was only two miles from the gas station where I planned to refuel. In the past, I have ridden a few extra miles when the gauge read "- - -" and I count on at least 20 miles available after the gauge reaches "- - -". Not this time.
It was mid-afternoon, and I was riding along on a wide urban street, minding my own business, when my 2007 K1200GT engine died. I had just entered an intersection with another wide street and the bike quickly coasted to a stop. Fortunately traffic was light. I duck paddled backwards to a corner to get out of the way of traffic. The bike would not start. I suspected that I was out of fuel, but was not sure until a few minutes later. I got off the motorcycle and called for roadside assistance (Good Sam Club), telling them that I suspected I had run out fuel (what an embarrassment!), but might need a tow if that wasn't it. They arranged to have someone bring fuel, but it would take 45-50 minutes. I asked for premium, and they said that they would convey the request, but I would most likely receive regular fuel. I called the nearest BMW dealer to let them know I might be bringing my bike in, but I suspected that I was out of fuel. I wanted them to know in case I might arrive a few minutes after closing so that someone could stay behind to keep the door open.
Now that everything was arranged, I had time to examine the problem. Sure enough, the trip meter showed 291 miles on that tank of fuel. It is 30 miles beyond the most I have ridden on a tank of gas for the K1200GT. I checked my little log book, and confirmed it by subtracting the current odometer reading with the one from the last refueling. Now I knew that I had a simple fuel problem, I called the dealer's service manager to let her know that I would not be coming in.
--> The dealer's service manager told me something interesting. She said that there was a service bulletin (recall) on the fuel gauge strips, and that BMW would pay to have them replaced whenever they failed, for up to twelve years of ownership. She said that it counts as two hours of labor for them. Hmm.
It was a pleasant day - not too hot - and there was nothing around, just farms. I called my elderly mother and had a nice conversation with her.
The roadside assistance person drove up in a small car. Obviously the roadside assistance company has people dedicated to fuel delivery. Perhaps he is also assigned to do basic triage to see whether a tow truck is really needed, but he did not seem bright enough to handle that task. Anyway, he got a small plastic gas can out of the back. He reminded me that I would have to pay $5.00 per gallon. It was the lowest grade fuel available - 87 octane. He said he was going to give me two gallons, but I asked for one only, so he stopped pouring immediately. (I felt cheated later discovered that he gave me only half a gallon.) I gave him a $5 dollar bill. The engine started immediately. I was surprised that it didn't sputter for a while first.
I finished my errand a mile away, and stopped at the nearby gas station to fill up the tank with premium. That's when I figured out that the roadside assistance person had cheated me on the fuel. Oh well - he got me going again.
* Don't be so prideful about your accomplishments. Your record can disappear in a heartbeat. When my time comes, I doubt anyone will note that I ran out of gas only once (I hope).
* I knew about the common fuel gauge strip failures on 2007 K1200GTs, but did not know about the failure modes for that problem. I assumed that it would suddenly show empty, or blink, or go blank, or show a completely full tank without dropping, or something catastrophic and obvious like that. Instead, it behaved normally, dropping slowly as I rode, but it was subtly off - just barely enough to trick me into riding the tank to empty. Beware!
* Pay attention to miles ridden on each tank. If you watch only the fuel gauge and miles remaining, you will eventually get bitten. They lie.
* BMW has some type of service bulletin or recall on the fuel gauge strips and will replace them at no charge when they fail.
I find myself wondering what fuel gauge strip "failure" means in the context of my bike? Mine seems okay again, but it lied at the end of the fuel tank. Is that a failure? (Probably!) Will the dealer accept it as a failure in the context of replacing it for free? (Who knows!)
I hope this story helps someone avoid what happened to me. It feels good to get it off my chest. Reset your tripmeter after each fill-up, and keep an eye on it. You never know when that subtle fuel gauge bug might bite you!