All drivers have to wonder “How far can I drive on empty?” at some point. No matter how carefully you plan, you’re bound to see your fuel light go on at some point during your life as a driver.
Perhaps you’re on a long road trip and the service station you were counting on according to Google maps is actually under renovations and you can’t get any gas. This means you end up driving farther than planned for gas. Ding! The fuel light comes on and you’re stuck wondering how long you have before your car will sputter out and leave you stranded.
Or, worse, if you get lost on a backroad, it may be miles before you can get to a gas station, let alone find someone who can help you with directions. If you started out with a quarter tank, you might quickly find yourself facing the dreaded fuel light.
Calculating How Far you Can Make It
With a bit of investigation, you can look up the make and model of your car to find out how many gallons are left in the tank when your fuel light comes on. Then, you have to calculate how many miles your car typically gets to the gallon. Of course, this will depend on the driving conditions you’re in. We all know that in the city and stop and go traffic, you’ll get fewer miles to the gallon. On the highway, you can usually get a bit farther. Using this as a guide, you can guess about how many miles you have left in the tank.
The majority of cars trigger the fuel light when there’s between 2-4 gallons left in the tank. This translates to anywhere between 25-100 miles of driving depending on the driving conditions and your car’s efficiency, which may vary according to how well it’s maintained. The break of 25-100 miles is a wide one. One hundred miles is a significant distance, meaning you can still go a ways and plan your next service station without too much pressure. But 25 miles means you need to hightail it to a gas station right away.
Many modern cars have a special feature that calculates how many miles you have left to drive based on the current fuel consumption. This is a helpful feature, but you can’t trust it blindly. It takes time for the system to update. If you just got off the highway and are now in some serious traffic, it will take a while for the calculation to become accurate again. Assume you have fewer miles left in your tank than what the system shows.
How can you avoid finding yourself in this situation?
Common sense says it’s wise to avoid allowing your tank to dip below the quarter filled mark. This not only helps you avoid getting stuck in the middle of nowhere without gas, but is better for your car. Running on low fuel can cause damage to your fuel pump because it causes debris and contaminants that sink to the bottom of the tank to be pushed through.
Another wise measure is to carry an empty fuel tank with you at all times. That way you can hike it to the closest gas station if you miscalculate how long your car can make it when the low fuel light comes on. Alternatively, a friendly driver might be willing to drive to the closest station and bring you back a gallon of gas.
Finally, carry a recent paper map of the area you’re driving in at all times. This can help you locate service stations even in the backwoods where every mile counts and you can’t afford to get lost. Cell phone service is always improving, but there are still areas of the country you may not have any reception and even GPS signal can fail. Avoid these troubles by carrying your map just in case.
Stuck without fuel? NK Towing can help you with a fuel delivery. Give us a call at 760-722-9262.