Pushing the Empty Envelope: How Low Can You Go?

Ever run out of gas? How low do you let your gas gauge go before you pull into a service station?  It’s all about personality style, comfort level, convenience and the time pressures of a busy lifestyle.

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Some people like to push the envelope…test the limits…and otherwise, live life on the edge. Others are more conservative…fearing the hassles, embarrassment and other consequences of being late…so the one-quarter tank notch on the gas gauge becomes their self imposed “empty” level.

So the real question is…are there any hard & fast rules to be aware of when it comes to playing the “low fuel” game?  Here a few common questions and answers if you’re one of those that likes to flirt with disaster.

How Far Can You Really Go on “E”?

Bottom line: It depends on your vehicle & it’s manufacturer. There’s a technical expression in Silicon Valley: RTFM! But since we’re discussing cars…it can be translated: Read The Owners Manual.

Can You Damage Your Car by Running Out of Gas?
One reason why most American manufacturers build a buffer into the “empty indicator” is because that’s what most Americans want…and have come to expect.

Another reason: Fuel pumps can burn up or otherwise become damaged when you run out of gasoline.  In the absence of gasoline, a fuel pump can draw in air. Too much air and it can be damaged…kind of like an engine running without oil.  Also, debris often accumulates on the bottom of a fuel tank over time. When the gasoline level gets low, that debris is more likely to be drawn into the pump and/or plug the fuel filters, both of which can damage the pump. A partially plugged filter will cause the pump to have to work harder, therefore decreasing the life of the pump.

Hybrid vehicles are another special consideration for playing it safe.  Severe damage to the hybrid system can occur by running out of gas. Just don’t do it!

Bottom Line…How Long Can You Go…Really?
ROUGH RULE OF THUMB…30-40 miles is how far you can go.  But if you’re a gamer and want something more specific…check out this website: TankOnEmpty.com.  Created by a computer programmer…probably a gamer too…who solicits the data and real world experiences of drivers who like to push the “E” envelope.

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