Thursday, March 30, 2023


How far can you drive when low fuel light comes on? This chart may tell you

When was the last time that dreaded low fuel light came on in your car? Uh-oh. Nobody likes seeing that orange glow, especially if you’re out in the middle of the boonies – no gas station in sight. It can be pretty scary. And if you’ve run out of gas before and been stranded, we imagine seeing it again might be even scarier for you. (Although, we hope you learned your lesson the first time.)

Your Mechanic, a car maintenance and repair company, shared the chart below. We think it will ease some of your fears. In their blog post on the subject, Your Mechanic says running out of gas can damage your catalytic converter. As a result, it may need to be repaired or replaced. That will cost you a heck of a lot more than a full gas tank!

Your Mechanic also reports that even driving with a low amount of fuel in your tank can damage your fuel pump. Any debris or contamination in the gas (which settles at the bottom of the tank) will go through your fuel pump when the tank is nearly empty. Not good.

If you’re driving a Tesla, you don’t have to worry about any of this – you lucky dog, you. And if you own a motorhome, well, there isn’t a chart for you yet.

Moral of the story, folks? If your gas tank is under a quarter full and your low fuel light comes on, fill ‘er up before you run out of gas!

Courtesy of Your Mechanic




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8 months ago

Why would I ever drive with so little fuel that the low fuel light comes on? I get nervous if I go below a quarter of a tank.

8 months ago

That Tesla thing… it could matter… what about the portable generator in the trunk!!!

8 months ago

Take with huge grain of salt. Jeep Grand Cherokee has/had 3 engines. A 6 and 2 sizes of V8’s. NO where near accurate at approximately 15 MPG.

Diane Mc
8 months ago
Reply to  Tim.kyfl

Yes. We have the Hemi. 15 to 18 for us.

8 months ago

On your mark, get ready, get set…..GO HATERS!! Thanks for the chart, I’ve often wondered about it myself, just another bit of information to have. Emily, can I throw one in there myself…OK thanks “Well my e-car has a bad fuel pump leak so that chart is stoopid!”

8 months ago

The driver info center on my Silverado shows shows remaining miles. It supposedly measures the average mpg the truck is getting, and then calculates the miles to empty. I don’t trust it.
I have never let mine get below 1/4 tank and usually fill when just under 1/2.
The pump is cooled by the fuel in the tank, as BobP said.

Steve H
8 months ago

If we have it set to show “Range” on the driver’s screen on our Sprinter MH, the counter stops with 100 miles remaining. The range is then replaced by a low fuel warning. We had that happen twice on our month-long trip in June.

1 year ago

Great article. I wish they had listed the F250 diesel in there, but the point is made. In our case, only once have I ever exceeded the miles remaining count down in my F250. I did it just to ensure my theory was correct. The manual says I have a 27 gal. tank. No matter how close I get to 0 miles left, I am never able to put more than 23 gal in it. So, making sure I was in familiar territory, I drove it past 0. Nothing happened except to stop the countdown at 0. To avoid an “I told you so” I only drove about 6 miles past 0 before refueling. My point was made. I estimate I can drive about 50 miles on those 4 gallons remaining after 0 but the DW’s consternation for doing so is not worth it.

Ron Lane
1 year ago

My father once told me (when teaching me how to drive) “Only a fool runs out of gas”.

8 months ago
Reply to  Ron Lane

or has a bad fuel gauge. my cj-7 the whole line of them are noted for bad displays. the gauge or the float?
now not even the spedo works ( need to find a new cable) so i just fill up often.

Bob p
1 year ago

My Nissan Frontier gets 9.4 mpg pulling our 23’ TT. The first real long trip was filling up at 1/4. I had the occasion to miss my appointed stop and before I found a station the low fuel light came on. Luckily over the next hill 3 stations appeared, the truck has a 21 gal.tank and I put 17.9 gallons in, so it apparently has 3 gallons left at low fuel light activation, which at my mpg computes to about 27 miles pulling the trailer before the hiking starts. Lol

Dan W.
1 year ago

This chart is great for cars and small pickups, but useless for any Towed RV or Motorhome. I usually fuel at 1/2 tank, but never let it get below 1/4 tank regardless of local fuel costs.

2 years ago

So this fuel range thing. I’m guessing that’s with nothing being pulled behind you on the F 150 or the Silverado. So if I’m pulling say a 25’ Trailer behind me then I should toss those figures out the window.

2 years ago
Reply to  Bob

In my case I can cut them in about half as I get about 1/2 the MPG towing as I do unloaded.

1 year ago
Reply to  Bob

Not really- the range is 35-80 miles, so towing- what do you think you’d use as the correct figure?

2 years ago

I guess I don’t have a vehicle new enough to have a warning light, just a gauge. My first car, ’60 VW, did not have a fuel gauge at all. You just kept track of mileage and then filled up. It did have a reserve tank lever on the floor that you could flip if the main tank ran out. Never had to use it.

Paul S Goldberg
2 years ago

My planned refuel point is at 1/2 tank on both the car and the motorhome. That way if my planned refuel point is closed for whatever reason I still have well over 100 miles range to find fuel. Also this lets me plan for the best discount on my TSD card.

RV Staff
2 years ago

That reminds me of my trip to Alaska with my two young sons more than 30 years ago. We drove to Skagway, via the unfinished Cassiar Hwy., in our ’75 Suburban. It only got 8.5 mpg, so anytime I saw a gas station I filled it up because I didn’t know for sure how far to the next one. Great trip! Take care. 😀 —Diane at

2 years ago

I refill at ½ or just a smidgen below ½. Why take chances? Why worry about will I make it to find a station?

2 years ago

With diesel prices climbing I consider half tank empty and fill it.

2 years ago

Don’t run your diesel out of fuel ever. Fuel is the lubricant for the high pressure fuel pump and they are very very expensive.

Joe C
2 years ago

Can’t help but flashback to the Seinfeld episode where Cramer put the ‘how far can we go on empty’ to the test.

Wayne C
2 years ago

“Doesn’t cost any more to burn fuel off the top of the tank than the bottom.” That’s what Dad told me the one time I ran out of gas 55 years ago.

James Starling
1 year ago
Reply to  Wayne C

The top of the tank fuel gets lower mileage

Bob P
2 years ago

The best practice is when it gets to 1/4 tank refill it, as the article states the fuel pump is submerged in fuel to keep it cool. When you get below 1/4 the pump is exposed to the air. The price of a new pump and installation will be several hundred $$, it’s not worth it to run out of gas or let it get below 1/4.

Chris Collins
2 years ago

Our 30 foot Class A is on a 2016 Ford f53 Chassis. When the low fuel warning comes on, there are still 8 gallons remaining in the 80 gallon fuel tank. So that allows us another 50-60 miles.

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