What to Do Before Running Out of Gas in Your Car

6 thing you should do before running out of gas in your car fuel gauge
What you should do when your low-fuel waring light comes on in your car.

Almost a million people run out of gas every year. If you continue to push the needle past the empty line on your fuel gage, it's only a matter of time that you'll end up on the side of the road also.

So what should you do if you're about to run out of gas? The first thing to do is "not panic." Once your fuel light comes on you most likely have anywhere between 20 to 40 miles before your vehicle completely runs out of gas.

Although you have a few miles left to travel, you should take a few immediate steps before continuing to press forward. Especially if you're in the middle nowhere and no idea how far it is to the nearest gas station.

The first thing you want to do is to check your paperwork and see if your vehicle came with roadside assistance and if so what exactly is covered and not covered. If you're covered, put the information in your glove box, or better yet, your phone. If you need to use the service, use it. That's what they do and can save you a lot of frustration and aggravation if you ever run out of gas.

The best way to avoid this situation is to not let your vehicle get low on fuel. Make it a habit to fill up your vehicle whenever it gets to the halfway mark on the fuel gauge.

You should always make sure your tires are properly inflated, don't excessively accelerate from a dead stop, and keep in mind, if your vehicle is loaded down with passengers and cargo, it will not get the same fuel economy as one that isn't.

To clear up any misconceptions, here are six things the automotive experts at the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) say you should do when your low fuel light comes on before running out of gas:

Six Things to Do Before Running Out of Gas in Your Car

1) Figure out where you're at - Safely pull over to the side of the road and use your vehicle's navigation system or smart phone to locate the nearest gas station. There are many map apps and other apps to help locate gas stations and other important business establishments. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has a great app available.

2) Turn off the air conditioner - You should turn off the A/C as soon as possible. It relieves the engine of additional load which saves fuel. When the A/C system is running it puts an additional load on the alternator which in turn, uses more fuel to power the engine.

3) Roll up all of your windows - I know we just told you to turn off your air conditioner. The reason you close all your windows is to reduce wind resistance and drag. If you're going to complain it's too hot with the windows up and A/C turned off, how hot and tired are you going to be when your pushing you car to the nearest gas station?

Keep your windows rolled up to reduce wind resistance. We know, we know, but yes: You have to turn off the A/C and keep the windows rolled up. You should've thought of that before your tank got low.

4) Slow down immediately if possible - Studies have shown the optimal speed 35 to 45 mph for a vehicle to be the most fuel-efficient. If you're on a highway or interstate you must abide by traffic laws. Remember the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady will win the race. Don't speed up in an attempt to get to the gas station quicker. The faster you go or quicker you accelerate burns more fuel at a quicker rate.

5) Turn off any accessories - This one coincides with number two above. The fuel savings may be small, but turning off your stereo and unplugging any electrical devices (charging phones, iPads, tablets) could make the difference of a couple thousand feet to the nearest fuel pump.

6) Coast using the lay of the land - This does not mean shutting the engine completely off. It means if you find yourself going downhill, shift the car into neutral to give your engine a little break. By shifting your vehicle into neutral, you'll still have use of your power steering making it easier to maneuver and handle the vehicle.

There is no standard in the industry mandating automakers to provide you with a certain amount of mileage before your car runs out of gas. The golden rule is once your low-level fuel light illuminates, you have roughly about 40 miles before you're stranded on the side of the road.

If you're the type of person that loves to live on the edge by seeing just how far you can push your vehicle to empty. Try doing this to narrow down your estimate of how far you can drive after your low gas light comes on:

How to Estimate How Far You Can Go After Your Low Fuel Light Comes On

  • Once your fuel light illuminates, immediately head to a gas station and fill your tank.
  • Write down how many gallons of fuel your car took to fill up.
  • Take the capacity of your cars fuel tank and subtract the number of gallons it took. If you have a 14 gallon tank and you car took 11.5 gallons, your fuel light illuminated with 2.5 gallons left.
  • Take that number and multiply it by your vehicle's average estimated fuel economy. The results will tell you approximately how many miles you can drive when your low-fuel light comes on. Two and a half gallons times, let's say 28 mpg equals 70 miles before your vehicle is out of gas.

The reason cars come equipped with a low-fuel light is to let you know you need to stop and add fuel to your tank. Many experts say, "once your gauge hits a quarter of a tank, way before the low-fuel light illuminates, you should resist the urge to keep driving and stop to fill up your tank." This will keep sludge and other contaminants in the bottom of your tank from being sucked up into the engines fuel system and cause your vehicles fuel line to clog causing you costly mechanical repairs in the future.

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