Low Fuel in the Tank Can Mean High Prices at the Mechanic

With today’s economic crunch, people are finding ways to save an extra dollar or two. One of the ways people are doing this is to try and push off gassing up their vehicles for as long as possible. With gas prices around $4 per gallon, squeezing every extra mile out of your vehicle before the next fill-up can save some money in the short term, but what are the long term effects of driving on empty?

We all know that running out of gas is always a possibility if we push that gas gauge too far, leaving us stranded on the side of the road. At that point your options are to start walking in hopes of coming across a gas station, or calling a friend (or AAA) to come with some gas to help get you back on your way. This is always frustrating and typically happens at the most inopportune times. With that said, it is not the only danger of driving on empty.

According to Consumer Reports, driving your car on an empty tank may cost a lot more in the long run than filling up the tank. Fuel pumps deliver gas from the tank to the engine, and the fuel pump uses the gas to cool down the fuel pump motor. If you run on empty then the fuel pump will suck in air which can heat up the pump. This can cause the pump to wear out, causing a costly repair to your vehicle. In many newer cars the fuel pump is located in the fuel tank, so you will not only have to replace the pump but the gas tank as well. This repair can cost hundreds of dollars in addition to leaving you without wheels while a mechanic makes the necessary repairs.

Another side effect of running on empty is clogging your fuel filter. Sediment can build up in a fuel tank overtime, and this sediment settles at the bottom. If you let the gas gauge sink to near empty then that sediment gets sucked into the fuel pump, thereby clogging the filter and requiring more costly repairs.

Below are some tips to help you get the most out of your fuel pump, and prevent costly repairs.

  • Do not let your gas tank get below ¼ of a tank
  • Do not rely on your vehicle’s gas monitoring system as driving habits can severely affect how much gas you use
  • If you need gas, be sure to fill up before starting on your way to avoid a problem if any unforeseen delays occur, such as traffic jams or long stretches of road with no gas stations

Although the extra fill up every week may cost you an extra $40 or $50, it sure beats having your car break down on the way to work. Between repair costs, being late to work, and having to find a temporary replacement vehicle, the extra savings is just not worth it.

For more information on this issue, please visit http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/05/running-on-empty-low-gas-in-the-tank-can-be-costly.html. Do you have any stories to share on this subject? If so please list them in the comments section below.