Know Your Fuel Levels - How Low Is Too Low?

03rd Aug 2015

The dreaded warning light for your fuel levels…. this icon is seen far too much and we have heard many horror stories of people who held out another day and then get stranded on the side of a slip road waiting for recovery.

Fuel is always going to be spike dependent on the economy and sometimes the prices can hit us hard, but letting your petrol run to empty can be a lot more damaging to those purse-strings, than having fill up prematurely.

Less fuel, better economy. Is it true and will it save me money?

Having a lighter load does prove to have better fuel economy, but in reality the effect with fuel is minimal, due to the insignificant weight that a full tank has on your car. What's worse is buying petrol more frequently, which will cause you to drive more miles to a station. You also run the risk of paying more for petrol, due to the spikes in petrol prices. We'd recommend filling up as close to maximum as you can, and to check whether the premium fuel will give you a better economy and whether it has benefits to your engines health.

Low fuel level

How low can you go?

Many new cars will give you an estimated mileage left in your tank so you can have an accurate guide for when you need to fill up next. However, we noticed from a recent survey that we ran, that a few of our drivers didn't know when their fuel would run old out.

Many older models will have a warning light that will pop up - usually on your dashboard - when your fuel is low. But what is "low"?! There is not a statutory amount that is left in the tank when the light will appear, but it is typically around 50 miles. It's better to underestimate how much fuel you have, so making sure you fill up within the next 30 miles should reduce the chance of breaking down.

Fuel gauge

Can running out of fuel cause damage?

Breaking down from 'running on fumes' can cause a range of issues to occur on your vehicle. Firstly, the fuel filter can be damaged, the purpose of it screens out dirt particles from the fuel to keep it clean from contamination to keep the fuel pumps and injectors functioning.

Your fuel filter can get blocked up with dirt, due to the pump trying to pull through petrol when there isn't and available. This is the least damage that can be done to your engine, as you can also damage your pump if there is a lot of dirt being pulled to the filter, which will pull some of it into the pump. This can cause hundreds of pounds of damage and cause a lot more stress than going out of your way to fill up.

Technician Lifting Bonnet

How can I preserve my fuel until I get to the station?

Sometimes you might be out of luck when you need fuel, with the nearest petro station being miles ways. There are some steps you can take to give you the best opportunity of getting refuelled before you break down.

1. Check the route and make sure to re-route if there is stop-start traffic. The optimal speed is around 50mph, so try and keep to that, when it is legal and safe.
2. Try not to over accelerate.
3. Turn any electrical equipment off that it non-essential: radio, air-con etc.
4. Keep your windows closed to reduce wind resistance.
5. If you know you it's too far away, don't take the risk. Get transportation to the nearest petrol station and fill a jerry can with fuel to add to your car as a temporary solution.

Petrol station