How Low Can I Let My Gas Tank Get Before Filling ‘Er Up?
See those words- Fuel Level Low? My car has said that for the last three days and I still haven't gotten gas in it. Look! Fred the Fusion gets really great gas mileage and I have convinced myself that I have a few more miles left before he runs completely out of gas and leaves me stranded on the side or in the middle of the street.
I have been there before. Well, not in Fred, but in Rhonda the Ram. Rhonda's my 1999 Dodge Ram that I bought way back in 2009. When I bought her, she only had 13,000 miles on her. The previous owner bought her brand spanking new so he'd have a nice looking and dependable truck to drive to church on Sundays. That's exactly what he did. Rhonda was basically only taken out on Sundays until I bought her. Days after I bought her, I drove her to Siesta Key, Florida and back. I put an additional 2,000 miles on her in seven days.
See, that was my "get-to-know-you" period with Rhonda and our relationship was tested a couple of weeks later when she was flirting with E on the gas gauge. Because I had never experienced a gas shortage with Rhonda, I figured I could tempt fate a little bit. Well, I was WRONG!
I was driving on Tamarack Road in Owensboro when Rhonda ran completely out of gas. She did it right in front of Tamarack Elementary School as the students were being dismissed for the day. I literally rolled to a stop in the MIDDLE OF THE CAR RIDER LINE! Rhonda was honked at, cursed at and flipped the angry bird several times by a handful of disgruntled parents. Seems she was empty just above the E instead of below it.
So, just how low can you let your gas tank get? What do the experts say? I revved up the online search engine and here's what I found out.
It seems most professionals- with a working knowledge of gas-powered engines- say that you should never let your gas tank dip down below 1/4 of a tank. According to YourMechanic.com,
In older vehicles, manufactured before the 1990s, fuel tanks were made primarily of metal and tended to rust over time. This could cause a problem if the fuel pump sucked up any sediment within the fuel tank and sent it to the engine.
However, in newer vehicles this doesn't appear to be an issue because "newer fuel tanks are made of high-density plastic, negating the formation of rust."
For the health of your vehicle and to avoid being stranded, you shouldn't let your gas tank get below 1/4 of a tank. Doing so puts an immense amount of stress on the fuel pump. The fuel pump is responsible for delivering gasoline to the engine. When the tank is low, the fuel pump has to work harder and eventually fails.
YourMechanic.com discusses fuel pump issues at length as well and warns that low tank levels could also lead to fuel filter issues.
So, if you're like me and consistently allow your fuel levels to flirt with E, you may want to buy that car or truck of yours a drink. Get it some gas and quick.