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Running Out of Gas – Bad for Car

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Running out of gas — bad for car? Though the loss of engine power due to empty fuel tank disables hydraulic assist for the steering and braking, the components are not damaged. However, running out of gas can still cause damage to your vehicle, that may require you a costly repair. In this article we will talk about what can happen to your car if you run out of gas.

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Top Reasons Why Running Out of Gas — Bad for Car


For many people the fuel light is the burden of car ownership. But there are a variety of reasons why you shouldn't drive your car on an empty fuel tank, whether it's just before pay day and money is tight or you simply forgot to fuel up on your way past the gas station. The consequences that you may face are not looking so good.


Fuel, spark, compression and oxygen are needed to start an engine. Fuel even tops the list and this is for a reason. There would be no combustion if there is no fuel. The engine will not start and will shut down. But running out of gas — bad for car not only for that reason.

  • Low fuel levels will cause the fuel pump to malfunction.


First of all, it’s not just an empty fuel tank that should be avoided. You must also avoid constantly running on low fuel. Running your car on low fuel for an extended period of time can trigger a variety of internal problems in your vehicle. Petrol in an empty fuel tank will absorb debris that has accumulated over time.


Sediment can form at the bottom of your gas tank due to airborne particles and impurities in the gas. Your fuel filter is in charge of filtering out all of the bad stuff and preventing it from entering the engine. If your fuel level drops too low, however, those impurities will clog your fuel lines and clog your fuel injectors, which are tiny nozzles that spray gas into your engine.


A damaged fuel pump or fuel injector might not show signs right away, but if your car runs out of gas and will no longer start, the issue is most likely due to one of these two components. A low tank will also force your vehicle to pump air, which can cause problems with your fuel pump and other components that rely on fuel to operate.


To avoid this, prime the fuel pump by turning the key to the “On” position (turning on the electronics without cranking the engine) and back to the “Off” position a few times after filling the tank. Priming the fuel pump will assist in removing any air that may have entered the fuel lines due to a lack of gas.


If priming the fuel pump doesn't help you start and keep your car going, you should consider getting a fuel system inspection and cleaning. Clogged fuel injectors can be cleaned out and the engine's power restored by a trained technician. However, if the injectors are clogged for an extended period of time, you will need to repair them (which is a bummer, since most modern fuel injectors are designed to operate for about 100,000 miles).

  • Engine Damage


Running out of gas — bad for car, as it is bad for engine. When your car is about to run out of gas, the fuel can go into one cylinder but not the other, resulting in misfiring. What's going on is that combustion is just taking place in the cylinder with the fuel. Even though this is an uncommon occurrence, it can damage your engine.


When your car's fuel tank is low, a more common issue is driving with the throttle wide open. The fuel pump isn't getting enough fuel into it, so your car's onboard computer tells it to run on a 12:1 or 11:1 air-fuel ratio. The fuel pump can't provide so much fuel with too little fuel in the tank. The air-fuel ratio is more like 14:1 in this case, causing it to run even hotter due to the less rich mixture. Engine knocking is caused by a mixture that contains much more air than is useful.


The air-fuel ratio is more like 14:1 in this case, causing it to run even hotter due to the less rich mixture. Engine knocking is caused by a mixture that contains much more air than is useful.

  • Catalytic Converter Damage


The catalytic converter is designed to withstand a lot of abuse. It manages a wide range of air-fuel ratios and exhaust temperatures in your car while removing contaminants from combustion exhaust. However, if there is too much fuel flowing through it, it can be damaged. If a lean mixture of air and fuel is sent through it, it easily overheats. Furthermore, too much heat will harm this car component.


Running out of gas — bad for car due to a misfire caused by the spark triggering combustion. The catalytic converter is designed to withstand a lot of abuse. It manages a wide range of air-fuel ratios and exhaust temperatures in your car while removing contaminants from combustion exhaust. However, if there is too much fuel flowing through it, it can be damaged. If a lean mixture of air and fuel is sent through it, it easily overheats. However, since there isn't much fuel in the gas tank and it occurs in such a short period of time, this condition poses a lower risk of destroying the catalytic converter.

  • It's risky to drive with a nearly empty fuel tank.


Running out of gas can result in a sudden loss of engine power, which can be dangerous on a busy road. This is hazardous in and of itself. Consider trying to pull over without using your engine. It's difficult if you're on a hill or in the middle lane with no hard shoulder. Being stuck in your car is a potentially dangerous situation that can never be taken lightly.

  • Your car is going to stall. 


When you run out of gas totally, the car would turn off as though you had taken the key out of the ignition while driving. For a variety of causes, the shutdown poses a significant threat. It will not only cause you to become distracted, but it can also cause mental panic and unsafe driving. And, let's face it, you still don't have a secure escape strategy in case your car dies unexpectedly.

  • Braking and steering would be more difficult.


When you run out of gas, the brakes won't necessarily stop working, but the brake pedal will feel much heavier and more difficult to press down. Your brakes are power assisted, and power is transferred from the brake pedal to the brake pads via hydraulics. However, when your engine is turned off, this feature is turned off as well. It will take a lot of leg strength to stop your car without a little hydraulic assistance.


Your steering wheel experiences something similar. If your engine fails, it will still work, but your power steering will be disabled, so you'll have to crank the wheel with two hands and a lot of elbow grease. You know how difficult it is to turn your steering wheel while your car is turned off if you've ever tried it.


With this you can conclude that running out of gas – bad for car and bad for the driver as well. 


When do you refuel your vehicle?


If you meet these guidelines, you should never need to be towed from the side of the road due to an empty fuel tank – unless your gauge is malfunctioning, of course. If you notice any of the following, it's time to refuel:

  • Your fuel light is illuminated


If your fuel light comes on, you should fill up at the nearest gas station. Even if the price of that particular fuel station is not so favorable for you, you must consider the inconvenience, the cost and the embarrassment of running out of gas on the roadside. If your car's fuel light has been illuminated for a long time and it suddenly loses power, it's most likely due to a fully empty fuel tank.


However, you can find that the car stalls more easily than normal or does not start as quickly as it should in the days leading up to a total loss of power. If you park your car with low fuel, keep in mind that it might not start the next day, particularly if it is parked on a slope.


Take note that fuel light and gauge can become unreliable. If you rely on your fuel gauge to be accurate, running out of gas could be a dangerous game. Obviously, the more recent your car is, the more reliable your fuel pump should be, but drivers of older vehicles should never refill on the spur of the moment. The fuel gauge can be affected by a variety of factors, such as whether you're just starting the car in the morning or whether you're on a very long drive. If you find that your fuel gauge is behaving strangely, you should get it checked out by a mechanic.

  • You just have a quarter of a tank of fuel or less.


If your tank is less than a quarter full, you can fill it up while you remember. Your fuel light will illuminate fast, so there's no need to wait any longer.

  • You're about to embark on a long journey.


This should go without saying, but if you're about to embark on a long journey, make sure you have a full tank of gas. You can never predict areas without gas stations and you don’t want to get stuck with an empty fuel tank in an unfamiliar area.

  • You’re using the freeway with less than half a tank of fuel


Driving on freeways consumes more fuel due to the high number of revs your engine can experience while traveling at speeds greater than 60 mph for extended periods of time. Overtaking and acceleration waste gas, and if you're stuck in traffic for a long time, your next fill-up might be on the hard shoulder.


Running Out of Gas — Bad for Car: Tips When You Find Yourself with an Empty Tank While on the Road


If for whatever reason you find yourself stuck with an empty fuel tank and your car cuts out whilst you’re driving, you should do the following:


  1. Switch on your hazard lights and only exit your car if it is safe to do so. If it is not safe to do so, such as in the freeway's outer lanes, you may need to call the police. 
  2. If you have a subscription to a roadside rescue service, you can call them right away to have your car removed so that traffic is not disrupted.


  1. It might be necessary to drive the car to the side of the road depending on the terrain and how busy the road is. Only do this if you have at least two people to assist you, and you should still stay behind the wheel to maintain control of the vehicle. No matter what other people say, never be pressured to push the vehicle on your own or in congested traffic. 


  1. If you're on the side of the road and you've run out of gas, if there's a sidewalk to walk on and it's safe to do so, you can walk to the nearest gas station. You'll be able to buy a gas can here to refill with fuel so you can restart it .If your car is fully empty, two cans will be needed to restart it, and this will only get you as far as the nearest gas station where you can properly refill. Make sure the car is locked, and only leave it if it is parked properly in a legitimate space you can park.


To avoid damaging any of your car components and getting into any compromising driving situations, avoid running out of gas or running the tank low on a regular basis. By doing so, you could  lessen the chances of causing harm to your vehicle. It's also a good idea to look up the minimum amount of fuel your car needs to protect the engine, fuel pump, and catalytic converter in your owner's manual.


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