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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

##RVT993

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Dan W.
6 months 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.

Bob
6 months 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.

Snayte
6 months 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.

KellyR
6 months 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
6 months 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.

Admin
RV Staff (@rvstaff)
6 months 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 RVtravel.com

Bobby
6 months 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?

Bill
6 months ago

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

billh42
6 months 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
6 months 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
6 months 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.

Bob P
6 months 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
6 months 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.

John Massengale
6 months ago

I learned years ago it is easier to fill the top half of a gas tank than the bottom half. After having a son and daughter that burned up four fuel pumps by running out of fuel it can be costly.

Donald N Wright
6 months ago

Who carries a Jerri can of fuel when they travel?

Tommy Molnar
6 months ago

I ALWAYS have a six gallon diesel ‘can’ filled whenever we leave on a trip. Ya just never know. And on our last day when we’re headed home I pour it in. Twice in 25 years I’ve had to pour the fuel in because it just didn’t look like there was any place to refuel soon enough. Like when you pull into a fueling stop – and they’re out of diesel! Adding six gallons of fuel just about guarantees I have another 60 miles to search for fuel.

Crowman
6 months ago

I carry a 5 gallon can when traveling as well and empty it in the truck when we get home.

Tom
6 months ago

Nice chart. I did like the chart of fuel remaining in tank when the light turns on.

Michael Theis
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom

Throw the chart out the window if you are towing. It won’t be close.

Theo
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael Theis

No, but math is your friend. Reference (or calculate) the gallons remaining when the light comes on divided by your towing MPG. For my F-150’s 36-gallon tank, 1/16 would be 2.25 gallons. At 11.0 MPG when towing, that would be almost 25 miles remaining. Of course, as a matter of practice, I stop to fill-up before I reach 1/4 full and set RV Trip Wizard accordingly.