You may think to yourself, "I know my car," "it will make it," or "I have some reserve." Whatever the case and whatever the thought, it's not as simple as it once was, especially with modern cars and fuel pumps. Many people recommend that you never drive a car below a certain speed because you could damage the fuel delivery system.
If you have a diesel engine, your fuel system is even more important because most diesel fuel pumps operate at high pressure to better atomize the fuel. That being said, let's take a look at why driving near empty all of the time is bad for your car.
When you drive long distances or get stuck in traffic, you may notice that familiar orange warning light on your gauge cluster. Consider this: you're nearing the end of your tank and your dash lights up a tiny spec of orange while you're driving, either behind traffic or on the highway without a gas station nearby. Arguably, it is part of general vehicle maintenance and car service in Reading to not only must you top up with the correct type of fuel, but you must also top up with the correct amount of fuel and run with the correct amount of fuel.
You might run out of fuel - The first danger you don't want to face is running out of fuel far from a petrol station and far from home. Sure, your car may run out of fuel while you're driving straight, but what if there's a corner ahead of you or a car behind you that isn't paying attention? You could be rear-ended or involved in an accident. Not to mention that many of the car's controls are aided, if not entirely reliant, on the engine turning and running.
If your engine isn't turning over, parts like the power steering pump or motor won't work. The engine also helps your brake master cylinder, so you won't be able to disengage or modulate the brakes. In any case, having an engine die on you at high speeds is not ideal, so running out of fuel is a very dangerous situation to be in if you're travelling fast. If you run out of gas in traffic, you will be a very inconvenient stumbling block.
Fuel pump failure - The fuel pump will have an impact on other components in your engine's fuel delivery system. Running your car close to empty or below a quarter on the fuel gauge on a regular basis may cause long-term damage to your vehicle.
Aside from your tank, the fuel pump is the first thing that comes into contact with your fuel. This component ensures that a constant flow of fuel is available for the engine to inject or atomize into the combustion chamber. The pump pressurises the fuel lines and allows a precise amount of fuel to pass through the injectors.
Running on a low fuel light will cause your fuel pump to overheat. Because fuel also cools surfaces, it functions as a coolant in its own right. Without the necessary fuel surrounding the pump, it will become unnecessarily hot, accelerating the component's wear and tear. That is not true for all vehicles, as manufacturers can design their fuelling systems in a variety of ways.
Sediment and dirt - Another potential hazard that isn't always obvious is accumulated sediment in your fuel tank. Your fuel pump has a filter that can become clogged with sludge and sediment from the bottom of your tank, impeding the flow of fuel through your system and causing unnecessary heat and wear and tear.
You could also introduce that sediment into your fuel system, causing significant damage. The pump will be the first component to fail, followed by the lines and, finally, the fuel injectors. Obstructions in this area will damage the system, rendering your vehicle inoperable or with reduced performance.
The engine can be damaged - Finally, and worst-case scenario, if your fuel system is compromised, you could cause long-term damage to your engine. Damage to your fuel system, especially if your car is turbocharged or has high compressions, can cause your car to run lean. Because your engine requires a specific amount of fuel, issues can arise if your vehicle is not receiving the correct amount of fuel. Engine knocking, for example, can result in bent valves or even damaged internals. While this is an extreme case, your engine will most likely not turn on due to a faulty fuel pump rather than destroying itself.
Reasons why you should not drive on a nearly empty tank of fuel
According to a recent survey, 827,000 motorists had to be rescued last year after running out of fuel. According to the insurer, the number of drivers breaking down with empty tanks has increased year on year since 2011.
Here are the top 10 reasons why you should avoid driving when your fuel tank is low:
You don't have as much fuel as you believe - According to statistics, we don't take the engine warning light seriously enough. When the warning light comes on, majority believe they can drive for at least another 31 miles, while a few believe they can drive for another 26 miles. When the warning light came on, about a quarter of all drivers believed they could go another 40 miles.
You risk serious car damage - Running out of fuel can result in much more than a call to a breakdown recovery company. It can actually damage your car. For example, if you run out of fuel, your fuel pump may suck in the dirt on the tank's bottom, clogging it and necessitating a costly replacement.
Most people are unaware that there is a problem - the main issue appears to be lack of knowledge and experience, with two-thirds of motorists running out of fuel being under the age of 35. Some argue that information about running out of fuel should be included in the driving test.
Fuel gauges are not precise - The amount of fuel indicated by your fuel gauge may not be accurate. Fuel gauges are still measured by a float, which can change depending on whether or not you're on a hill, for example.
Each vehicle has a different range - For some vehicles, the number of miles people believe they can drive after the warning light is correct. The Mercedes C-Class, for example, has a range of 46 miles on average. Other vehicles, such as the Vauxhall Astra, will die after 26 miles, and most drivers are unaware of the difference.
Modern cars are worse at dealing with it - They are more sensitive and have a much lower tolerance for problems. This has resulted in significant advancements in motoring, but it also makes them more vulnerable to damage from running out of fuel.
"Freewheeling" is ineffective - The practise of letting the car coast out of gear to save fuel, known as freewheeling, does not help. As long as the accelerator isn't pressed, modern cars actually use more fuel out of gear than they do in gear.
Some "tips" are ineffective - In a traffic jam, turning off your car's engine will save you fuel... as long as you leave it off for at least a minute. Any shorter, and the car will consume more fuel to restart than it would otherwise.
It may jeopardise your insurance - It can be aggravating to have to call for roadside assistance, especially when the problem could have been avoided. When it comes time to renew your premiums, all of these calls are taken into account.
It hardly pays to look for cheaper fuel - While some drivers are willing to drive around with a warning light on in search of cheaper fuel, majority of car mechanics would advise stopping to get minimum £10 worth of fuel to avoid having to spend hundreds of pounds on repairs.