Every car owner is used to filling up their car when their tank gets low, but everyone has wondered at some point or another, how far can a car go on empty?
Unfortunately, once the gas light comes on, most gas-powered cars can only go 30 to 50 miles before running out of gas, with hybrids usually able to go a bit farther.
It’s not unusual to wonder about how far your car could go without running out of gas, but going for too long without it can be dangerous, both for yourself and your car.
So how long can a car go on empty, is driving on empty bad for your car, and what other risks come with driving on empty? Read on to learn more.
How Far Can a Car Actually Go on Empty?
Answering this question is actually more complicated than you might think. Every car is different, so the distance that each car can travel when on empty depends completely on the car you have.
There are other things that correlate with how far a certain car can drive on empty as well. For instance, larger vehicles that have worse fuel economy tend to be able to drive a lot less on empty than smaller more efficient cars do.
You also have to take into consideration when the vehicle decides to tell you it’s getting empty. A car could be considered driving on empty the very instant the gas light turns on, but different cars tend to turn the gas light on at different times.
While for some cars, it may be dependent on how much fuel is left in the tank, other cars might calculate how far the fuel can take you and turn the gas light on when that number of miles gets too low, further complicating how much farther a car can drive when on empty.
Hybrids also tend to be able to go farther after the gas light turns on than their completely gas-powered counterparts. This makes sense, as hybrids are partially powered by electricity and tend to have better gas mileage, although this doesn’t help determine exactly how far the vehicle could go on empty.
Despite all of these variables, there is information out there that can help you better understand how far a vehicle will be able to drive on empty. Looking into your car’s make and model online can help greatly.
For example, on the low end of things, the Chevy Silverado a full-sized pickup truck can only be expected to be able to drive another 25 miles after it gets down to 1/16 of a tank and the gas light turns on.
On the other hand, the GMC Sierra Denali, a similarly large truck, can be expected to go another 64 to 92 miles. This is most likely to do has to do with the gas light in the GMC coming on earlier than the Silverado’s when there are still 4 gallons of fuel left.
Still, the trend certainly is in favor of smaller cars and hybrids. Good examples of this are the Toyota Prius and the Nissan Versa, with the Prius being able to go another 76 to 81 miles and the Versa being able to go a staggering 80 to 104 miles on empty.
Is Driving On Empty Bad For Your Car?
Though your car may be able to drive quite a bit farther even after the gas light comes on, driving with such tiny amounts of fuel can actually do damage to your car.
Clogging up and needing to replace your fuel filter is one of the most common things that can happen when you continue to drive your car with the gas light on.
While this isn’t necessarily the end of the world and probably won’t be a very expensive fix, you can still save yourself the extra trip and bill by making sure you fill up sooner.
Basically, the less fuel you have in the fuel tank, the more likely it is that dirt and other particles will clog up your filter, which if left unchecked, could potentially cause further damage to your vehicle’s fuel pump, resulting in some very costly repair bills.
However, clogging up the filter isn’t the only way to do damage to your fuel pump. The gas in your tank also lubricates the pump as it passes through.
If your fuel gets too low and your fuel pump isn’t sufficiently lubricated, it could easily heat up, deform, or break completely, again resulting in some very expensive repairs bills that could have otherwise been avoided.
If you want to ensure that you don’t do any damage to your fuel pump, you should make sure to fill up your car when it gets down to just below a quarter tank.
While you can no doubt push your car farther than this if need be, doing this will prevent you from doing any unnecessary damage to your fuel pump and help you avoid any extra anxiety that might come from risking running out of gas.
What Other Risks Come With Driving on Empty?
Doing damage to your vehicle isn’t the only thing that you risk when you drive on empty. There are plenty of other reasons why you should avoid driving on empty, the most obvious of which is running out of gas and becoming stranded.
While highways might not seem so vast when you’re driving down them at 65 mph, if you run out of gas and are unable to travel faster than you can walk, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise when you realize how far you are from the closest gas station.
What may only be a 15-minute drive down the road in your car can quickly turn into a six-hour round trip walk to and from the gas station, which is not only a huge inconvenience but also incredibly dangerous as you’ll be spending an extended period of time walking next to high-speed traffic.
As horrible as that sounds, we haven’t even considered the weather and time of day yet. If you running out of fuel at night can be even more dangerous and if you get stranded in particularly cold, hot, or wet weather, what went from being a normal drive down the highway can easily become a life-threatening situation.
Key Takeaways to How Long Your Car Can Actually Go on Empty
Most gas-powered cars can go another 30 to 50 miles while on empty.
The distance you can drive on empty is completely dependent on the make and model of the vehicle.
Smaller cars and hybrids tend to be able to go the farthest on empty.
You should avoid driving your car on empty, as you risk becoming stranded or causing damage to your car.
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