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Is It OK to Drive with the Low Fuel Light On?

How many times have you seen the low fuel warning light come on, yet you kept on driving? Maybe there were no open gas stations or you were too tired to stop, or maybe you were in an area where you didn’t feel safe to stop late at night. You carry car insurance for peace of mind, right? For the same reasons, you should never let your fuel tank get too low.

Take it from me… this is not something you repeatedly want to do – for a variety of reasons.

To begin with, if there’s a natural disaster in your area, like a flood, fire, earthquake or tornado, not only may you not be able to drive to a gas station, but if you’re even able to get to a station, the gas pumps may not operate due to widespread power outages.

There are other important reasons for keeping your gas tank above half-full at all times:

• You are less likely to be stranded without transportation (and more vulnerable to situations you’re not prepared to deal with).
• Condensation can build up in a near-empty gas tank in extremely cold temperatures, which can cause fuel line freeze-up and no-start conditions.
• A mostly empty gas tank can collect water vapor, which can rust the insides of a metal fuel tank.
• Water vapor can mix with the fuel and can reduce the efficiency of your car – this is true in metal OR plastic tanks.
• As your car sits overnight, due to condensation and evaporation, water builds up in your gas.
• When you start your car, water is the first thing to enter your fuel pump. This results in several problems:

o Makes it harder on your starter, wearing it out sooner.
o Does not lubricate the fuel pump to keep it cooler like gas, decreasing its life.
o Damages fuel injectors over time.

• Rust formed by the water vapor in the air tends to sink to the bottom of the fuel tank.

o Small amounts of debris may be on the bottom of the tank. As fuel levels drop too low, that debris is more likely to be drawn into the pump and/or plug the fuel filters, both of which can damage the pump.

Don’t make the mistake of those individuals who think they can press their luck by relying on the notion that after the warning light comes on, they still have enough fuel in reserve for a set number of miles. Based on rough calculations, and data from websites which invite people to send in stories about how far their cars traveled after the warning light comes on, some drivers try to squeeze out every drop of fuel before stopping to refuel.

Maybe you won’t ruin your fuel injectors or fuel pump if you let your tank run bone dry a few times. But, why expose yourself to expensive repair bills or something even worse? Be ready for the unexpected — keep your tank at least half full at all times and, of course, keep your car insurance up to date.

Have you ever run out of gas after your low fuel light came on? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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