Driving on Empty: How Far Can You Go on an Empty Tank?
You’re driving along, when suddenly you hear that familiar ding. You need gas. But how soon do you need to fuel up? How many miles do you have left? Is there really any harm in driving until your tank is nearly empty?
How Far Can You Drive Your Vehicle on Empty?
Experts recommend keeping your gas above a quarter of a tank, but most of us ignore that from time to time. Some even regularly run their vehicles until they’re “driving on fumes”.
However, that E on the fuel gage doesn’t stand for Eternal. You will eventually run out. Knowing how far you can go “on empty” can keep you from getting stranded on the side of the road.
So how many miles CAN you go? Depends. The miles vary from as few as 25 to as many as 100. Trucks, SUVs, and cars with larger engines may only get you to the next exit – maybe 25 miles – while smaller hybrid vehicles may go four times that distance before you have to fill up.
How Much Gas is Left When the Light Comes On?
The precision of your gas gauge is largely determined by the location of the fuel sensor inside your tank. Generally speaking, once the light comes on, there are one to two gallons of gasoline left.
To get the most accurate estimate possible, drive until the low fuel warning light comes on, then immediately fill up. Check the owner’s manual for your vehicle’s fuel tank capacity then subtract how many gallons it took to fill up. You’ll learn exactly how much gas is left once the light comes on.
However, knowing this information may encourage you to consistently drive until your gas is too low. According to experts, this is a bad idea. There’s more at risk for your vehicle than you may realize.
Is It Bad to Drive with an Almost Empty Gas Tank?
Simply, yes. It’s stressful for both you AND your car. While it happens to the best of us on occasion, don’t consistently let this happen.
First, your fuel pump is designed to stay submerged in the coolness of the gasoline. When your gas runs low, the pump is exposed to air which creates the risk of overheating.
Second, the gas lubricates the pump. An almost-empty tank can deprive the pump of enough lubrication and damage the bearings.
Third, when the gas level is low, the pump can suck up the gunk and sediment from your tank. This leads to a clogged filter which prevents ample fuel from getting to the engine.
Fourth, in the case of emergencies – highway traffic or extreme weather or even family crises – having an empty tank adds stress upon stress. It can even be dangerous if you find yourself stranded on a busy highway or a deserted back road. Be prepared by keeping your tank at least a quarter full at all times.
Does Running Out of Gas Ruin Your Car?
Again, it can.
In addition to all the possible things that can go wrong while driving ALMOST empty, running completely out of gas can damage your catalytic converter. Repairs can run anywhere from $300 to $3,000 if you need a replacement.
Also consider that if your car runs out of gas and dies, neither the power steering nor the brakes work normally. This makes maneuvering off the road much more dangerous.
You’re not doing yourself – or your vehicle – any favors by consistently letting the fuel light come on. You risk costly damage to your car and you put yourself at risk as well. Pay attention to your gas gauge and keep more than a quarter tank of gas at all times. Your car, your wallet, and your safety will all benefit.