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Is It Bad to Let Your Fuel Light Come On?

BY: Keith Benline
Driving with low fuel light

Continuing to drive when your low fuel warning light turns on doesn’t seem like a big deal, but you’d be surprised to learn just how damaging this can be towards your vehicle. It’s a common habit many of us do daily, but to ensure your vehicle stays on the road longer, it’s best to pump the minute your gas light comes on

Properly maintaining your vehicle means more than just getting oil changes and tire rotations—paying attention to warning lights on your dashboard helps you tend to issues early to avoid sudden part failure.  

What Does It Mean When The Fuel Light Comes On?

The fuel light is controlled by electronics in your fuel system that use a flotation device to measure fuel levels in your gas tank. This is usually connected or used in conjunction with your fuel pump located inside of your fuel tank. The floatation device controls the fuel level indicator gauge and turns it on once it reaches a specific threshold.

The low fuel warning light helps indicate when your fuel tank is running close to empty, and for some, how many miles are left. Newer models also notify you when gas levels are about the reach the bottom of the tank and your remaining mileage.

How Far Can You Drive With Your Fuel Light On?

Most vehicles allow for about 30-50 miles from the time the fuel light kicks on. This is just an estimate, and the number varies depending on the make and model. For more information on how far you can drive when your low fuel light comes on, check your owner’s manual for a full breakdown and additional information on the type of gas to use when filling up.

Continuing to drive with low fuel levels can be dangerous and result in premature damage to other important components. Plus, you run the risk of running out of gas in an area far from the nearest gas station. Unless you have gasoline on hand in your car’s emergency kit, it’s best to take into account how many gas stations are on your route, as well as how often you should re-up on gas at all times. 

Why You Shouldn’t Drive On Empty?

While you may have 30-50 miles to go until you run out, there are some long-term consequences that can happen from continuously driving on low.

Your vehicle’s fuel pump uses the fuel in the gas tank to work as a coolant for the electric motor housed in the pump. By driving on empty on a consistent basis, your fuel pump will be exposed to higher temperatures with no way of cooling down—resulting in premature damage caused by overheating and an upcoming repair bill.

Not to mention, you increase the chances of being stranded on the side of the road if you happen from an empty tank. You may be in luck if you have roadside assistance already, but if not, then this can be a scary situation for any driver. 

How Driving With The Fuel Light On Costs You Money

Driving with the fuel light on ultimately costs you money in the long run for two simple reasons—repairs and competitive shopping for gas.

Fuel Pump Damage

Having a fuel pump replaced is not something that the average DIY’er can take on. In most cases, this involves removing the gas tank, draining any remaining fuel, and removing any surrounding parts. If you try to repair this at home, there’s a high chance you can void your current warranty coverage if not done properly. Taking your vehicle to a certified mechanic ensures you can get back on the road, but this repair will likely take a few days to complete since it takes a few hours to get to the fuel pump

If you have extended car warranty coverage, then you may be provided rental car coverage to ensure your life remains uninterrupted. For those without, you may want to look into some options to ensure you’re protected in the face of a breakdown. Request a free, no-obligation quote today to learn more about your options. 

Sediment Through The Engine

In addition to damaging the fuel pump, you can find yourself needing an engine replacement sooner than later by driving with low gas. Gasoline naturally picks up sediment, no matter the quality you go with. Driving with low fuel levels means more sediment from the bottom to be drawn into your engine, which often contributes to sudden part failure. 

Competitive Shopping

There are hundreds of smartphone apps that can help you find the cheapest gas near you, but when you’re looking for the nearest option, the choices are limited. When driving with the low fuel warning light on, you remove the luxury of driving to the best-priced gas station and instead are forced to purchase gas at the nearest location. This means you will ultimately be paying more for the gas each time you run your car down to empty.

Tips For When You’re About to Run Out of Gas

Running out of gas is unavoidable. In addition to paying attention to when your low fuel light turns on, here are some other tips to consider when you’re about to run out of gas. 

Drive Conservatively

Driving at high speeds not only causes more accidents but can also cause you to waste more gas. You can see a serious decrease in fuel mileage from rapid acceleration and braking, as well as lower MPGs from the stop and go traffic in cities.

If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, look for makes that are known for their fuel efficiency like the Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Rogue, Toyota Camry, or Chevrolet Silverado.

Comparison Shop With Mobile Apps

There are many smartphone apps for drivers that can help find the best prices on gas near you. These apps will show you a map of the city you are in and all of the gas prices around you to allow you to find the best prices to fill up with before your light comes on.

Turn Your A/C Off

The A/C system on your vehicle can put a serious load on your engine which decreases fuel economy. While it is not a long term solution, you can turn your A/C off when your fuel light comes on to save a little bit of fuel.

Monitor Your Gas Tank

Last but not least, keep your car’s fuel tank at least a ¼ tank full. This will allow you to have enough mileage to get to the next gas station while ensuring your fuel tank is properly cooled.

Save Thousands on Repairs With Endurance

Taking the time to properly maintain your vehicle can keep you on the road longer, and save you money when it comes to auto expenses. Although you never really know when a breakdown can strike, investing in reliable coverage can put money back in your pocket and provide peace of mind on the road.

Especially now with EnduranceAdvantage, you can experience Endurance breakdown protection plus unrivaled maintenance benefits in one total package. coverage PLUS routine maintenance. EnduranceAdvantage starts with extensive component protection and offers personalized plans so you can find the breakdown coverage that’s right for you. Whether you’re a daily driver looking for affordable protection, or a commercial driver looking for inclusive coverage—Advantage has you covered. Request a free, no-obligation quote today to get started and learn more about our flexible payment plans. 

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