After you’ve driven your vehicle for a while you kind of get to know it like you do the back of your hand. You know what each small sound means, you know when it feels “normal” and when it feels “off.” This knowledge likely came with a lot of trial and error.
One way we commonly push our vehicle’s abilities is where the gas tank is concerned. Often, when you drive with someone and point out that their vehicle is on “E” they will tell you they are fine and that they know exactly how long they can wait to fuel up. Some even boast about the time they coasted up to the gas pump, timing it “just right.” However, should their calculations be off, and they run out of gas on the road, it can be more than just a temporary annoyance- it can cause damage to the vehicle.
What Happens to Your Vehicle When You Run Out of Gas?
Fuel pump damage. The fuel pump’s job is in its name, located in the fuel tank, it pumps fuel to your engine, allowing your vehicle to move when you push on the gas. The fuel pump needs gas to remain lubricated and cool. When your tank is on “E,” it can become overheated and overworked. If you want the fuel pump to perform for as long as it was intended to, you should avoid letting your fuel levels drop under a quarter tank.
Clogged fuel injectors. Impurities that are found in gas form sediment that accumulates at the base of the gas tank. Your vehicle is equipped with a fuel filter to help keep all that junk from reaching the engine. However, when the fuel level drops too low, the debris may get moved through the fuel lines, clogging your fuel injectors.
Symptoms of an impaired fuel pump and/or fuel injector may not appear immediately; however, if you have recently let your vehicle run out of fuel, and now it will not stay running, there is likely damage linked to these parts.
Pro Tip: If you have run out of gas, prime the fuel pump after filling up to help protect your vehicle. Simply turn the key to the “on” position (turns on electronics without starting the engine) and then back to the “off” position two or three times. This helps to remove any air that might have gotten into the fuel lines as a result of running out of gas.
If you find that priming doesn’t get your vehicle started, you will want to consider bringing your vehicle into Meridian Automotive for a fuel system inspection. One of our skilled technicians can clean your clogged injectors, restoring power to the engine. Should the injectors be left clogged up for too long you will likely need to replace them. This could be a real waste of money as modern-day fuel injectors are created to last for around one-hundred thousand miles when they aren’t abused.
What Happens Behind the Wheel When You Run Out of Gas?
Your vehicle stalls. When the gas is empty, your vehicle will shut down, feeling much like it would if the key were removed from the ignition while you were driving. This poses many a risk. It will make you distracted, and probably a bit panicked, which could result in reckless driving. Not to mention, you most likely do not have a plan to exit the road safely in such an event.
Steering and braking feel harder. While the brakes won’t stop functioning when you are out of gas, the pedal feels a lot heavier and will be difficult to press down. The brake system uses hydraulics to carry energy from the pedal to the brake pads. If the engine shuts down, so too does this feature. Without hydraulic help, it is going to take quite a bit more leg strength to bring your vehicle to a stop.
A similar event occurs with the steering wheel. While it still functions without engine power, the power steering will not work. It will take both hands and a bit of upper body strength to pull that wheel. Curious as to how difficult it is? Try turning your steering wheel while your vehicle is off, it’s almost the same.
What Do You Do When You Run Out of Gas on the Road?
Pull off the road. If you run out of gas while driving, you need to first remember to remain calm. Then find somewhere safe to pull off the road where you won’t risk being hit. If you are able, you should make your way into a parking lot or another area free from traffic. Avoid pulling off to the left side of the road as that leaves you exposed to faster-paced traffic.
Use your hazard (emergency) lights. This is the exact circumstance hazard lights were created for. You should use the hazard lights any time your vehicle becomes a road hazard and you are waiting on roadside assistance. Hazard lights alert other motorists to your presence and are especially useful if you are unable to remove your vehicle from traffic.
Get help. Call on a friend or family member to bring you some gas or take advantage of your roadside service if you subscribe to one. If it is safe to do so, and there is a station nearby, you can set out on foot and get yourself some gas. A one-gallon can should be just enough to get your vehicle to the nearest station to fill your tank.
Don’t Run Out of Gas!
The best practice to ensure you never run out of gas is to not let your vehicle drop below a quarter of a tank. This will not only ensure that you make it wherever you need to go safely, but that your engine is protected as well.
If you have pushed your gas tank too far more than once, give us a visit here at Meridian Automotive. Our highly skilled automotive specialists will inspect your vehicle and let you know if any damage has been done that needs repair. If you are near Meridian, Idaho, schedule an appointment online or call us at 208-888-3797.