It's no secret that an automobile can continue to run after the fuel light comes on, but should drivers rely on the extra mileage it allows?
It’s likely most drivers would agree that the fuel light often comes on at inopportune times. Stuck in traffic on a freeway; running late for an important appointment; or driving on a country road with no towns or gas stations in sight, is when drivers decide to push the fuel gauge past the ‘E’ signal.
Some popular car models can make it between 30 and 50 miles after the fuel light goes on, according to a study by Pick Analysis. The average Chevrolet Silverado will continue for about 33 miles beyond empty. Smaller cars like the Volkswagen Jetta average about 43 miles and the Toyota Corolla tops the list at 47 miles.
Knowing how far a vehicle can drive with low fuel may be reassuring, but the effects of low-fuel driving can be damaging to the car.
“When you’re running low on gas, it’s best not to push your luck,” says Neil Hoff, a refined fuels specialist with CHS. “Stopping to fill up before your gas gauge hits ‘E’ could save you stress, damage to your car and time spent on the side of the road."
Hoff explains that by allowing a car to run on empty, dirt and contaminants are more likely to become suspended in the fuel and block the fuel filter. When fuel is extremely low, the fuel pump is no longer suspended in fuel and can overheat. In some cases, low fuel can even affect power steering and brakes.
To avoid an expensive trip to a mechanic, Hoff advises taking a proactive approach to fueling, advising drivers to always keep at least a quarter tank of gas in the tank at all times. Running out of gas in heavy traffic is not only inconvenient but also dangerous, so Hoff recommends fueling up before getting on highways or major roads. Also, becoming familiar with where gas stations are along a driving route will also help prevent running out of gas on long trips. Always keep a gas can in the trunk in case of emergencies.
“Keeping your car fueled is cheaper and safer, in the long run, than driving on empty,” Hoff says.