Driving with a quarter-full fuel tank is bad for your car is a myth, but the same isn’t true for driving on empty. If your car doesn’t get enough fuel, you’re putting your vehicle at risk of the following problems:
- Malfunctioning fuel pumps
- Clogged fuel filters
- Engine misfires from running lean
- Getting stranded far away from a gas station
How Does a Fuel Tank Work?
Fuel from the tank travels through the fuel pump before being injected into the engine via fuel injectors to power the vehicle. If the fuel tank is damaged or doesn’t have enough gas, your car won’t be able to function.
How to Tell if You’re Low On Fuel
The most obvious sign your car is low on fuel is an illuminated indicator lamp. You can find it on your car dashboard.
The indicator lights up to warn the driver that there isn’t much fuel left in the tank and that it’s time to refuel. Some vehicles even have an audible alarm that triggers when fuel hits critically low levels.
However, you can also check how much gas you have remaining in the tank by looking at your fuel gauge.
Is Driving With a Quarter of a Tank of Fuel Bad for Your Car?
According to many car owners, driving with your gas tank filled only a quarter of the way through is dangerous for your vehicle. You’ve likely heard many stories from other drivers about how driving without a full tank affects different parts of your car.
Without a full tank, the fuel pump would rust, and the fuel filters would get clogged — or so people say.
Fact or Myth?
The claim that driving with a quarter or less fuel in your car is a myth. While this might have been true in the past, it’s debatable if these claims hold up in modern times. As technology advances and improves, so too does the quality of vehicles and their components.
Modern fuel pumps are more resistant to corrosion, and the fuel they transfer keeps them cooled and lubricated. So long as there’s fuel in the tank, even if it is less than a quarter of the way filled, your fuel pumps will function properly.
While driving with low fuel reserves isn’t going to damage your car, driving with an empty or near-empty tank will. Being low on fuel is not a problem you want to have, especially since it comes with a lot of risks.
The Dangers of Driving With Low Fuel Reserves
You’ve likely asked yourself: “How many miles is a quarter tank of gas going to last me?”
There’s no one true answer to this question because numerous factors affect how much fuel your car consumes. These factors include:
- Gas tank size
- Number of passengers
- Miles per gallon of your vehicle
- Driving habits
On average, a quarter tank of gas could last your car 100 to 200 miles. While this might sound like a lot, it’s a good practice to top off your fuel tank whenever you can.
Failing to refill your tank could put you and your vehicle in tricky situations.
Your car needs fuel to move. If your vehicle doesn’t have enough fuel, it won’t be able to get anywhere.
Heading to the nearest gas station would be the ideal solution, but without fuel, you can’t drive to one to replenish your fuel tank.
To make matters worse, if your car gets stuck in the middle of the road, you could create traffic or cause a traffic accident. Your car might end up getting towed if you can’t refuel it quickly enough.
Damaging Your Vehicle
Fuel pumps can’t operate without fuel, so they might start to malfunction if your tank is empty.
Though your car won’t get damaged immediately, constantly driving with low fuel reserves could make it more likely.
How Does Driving With an Empty Gas Tank Damage Your Car?
Driving with an empty gas tank can damage various parts, namely the fuel filters, the fuel pump, and the engine.
Faulty Fuel Filters
If your fuel filter is clogged, your gas tank is more likely to collect dirt over time. The debris usually settles into the bottom of your fuel tank.
If your tank ever dries out, the fuel pump can draw this debris, which is bad for your fuel filters because dirt accumulates.
All the debris and dirt will eventually compound into gunk and clog your filters.
Fuel Pump Malfunctions
Gas lubricates and cools the fuel pump during transfer, which helps keep the pump in good condition. If there isn’t enough fuel, the pump can overheat and get damaged.
The fuel pump is difficult to replace. The gas tank must be drained to access the fuel pump, and this means the job can cost up to $1000 to repair.
If you don’t have enough fuel, your engine will take in more air while you drive. This disrupts the air-to-fuel ratio, causing your engine to run lean. This has the potential to cause significant damage to your vehicle’s catalytic converter.
Engine running lean has the potential to cause significant damage to your vehicle’s catalytic converter.–Anthony Harlin, ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician
As a result, your engine might have more difficulty accelerating and will misfire more frequently. Your engine could sustain permanent damage if you don’t address this problem immediately.
Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.