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A Guide to Driving With the Fuel Warning Light On

 I’m sure you’re just as guilty as everyone else is of leaving your car’s gas tank to run to almost empty, but have you ever wondered just how far you can actually drive your car on empty before it grinds to a halt? Learning the following information will allow you to gauge (no pun intended) just how far you can actually go before disaster strikes. In addition, I’ll tell you what else is at stake when you run your gas tank to near-depletion.


Part 1: The fuel warning light has come on


In this instance, the most worrying possibility is getting stuck on the side of a busy road. Not only can this cause a ton of hassle, but it could also put you in a potentially dangerous situation. If you run out of gas on the freeway, for example, you run the risk of being surrounded by cars traveling upwards of 70 mph. Similarly, you could get rear-ended by another vehicle if you happen to break down on a blind turn.

In addition to the risk to your safety, you can also damage your vehicle. The catalytic converter, which is part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, may need to be repaired or replaced. Your vehicle’s fuel pump can also be damaged because of leftover residue or debris that naturally settles at the bottom of your gas tank which will be sent through it.

Part 2: Knowing to which degree you should trust your range (distance-to-empty) gauge

If you happen to drive a vehicle that’s more modern, it’s highly likely that it has a range gauge. This gives you an approximation of how many miles or kilometers you can drive until you have to fill up your gas tank.

The problem is the readouts that this gauge gives you are calculated on the average gas mileage you have achieved while driving your vehicle, thus the figure you are shown may not be reflective of the driving conditions you’re experiencing at the time.


An example of this is if you’ve transitioned from highway driving to stop-start traffic. Due to the significant differences in the two types of driving, the gauge will not give you an accurate readout relative to your current driving conditions. This means that you should always use figures for range only as an approximation rather than to figure out exactly how many miles you can drive prior to filling up.

Part 3: So exactly how far can I drive on empty?


The honest truth is that the answer varies depending on the vehicle you drive, as well as you driving habits and conditions. As a result, it’s always advisable to get to a gas station as soon as you possibly can once the fuel warning light comes on.


As a reference, click on the image below to see how far you can drive in the top 50 bestselling vehicles in the United States after the fuel warning light is illuminated:

Content Source: Your Mechanic
Images (including cover) by Deposit Photos.
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