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4 reasons running out of gas hurts

When gas gets near the $4 mark, more people try to run their vehicles on fumes.

By MSN Money Partner May 9, 2011 4:33PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Every time a gallon of gasoline approaches or breaks the $4 mark, you see a deluge of news stories about people running out of gas. They're stories about people trying to "stretch their dollar" at the gas pump by fueling up less frequently, which is an absurd idea in the first place (running closer to empty doesn't stretch anything except the timebetweenfuel-ups).


I can understand why people do it -- they don't like paying the bill when they fuel up -- but the reality is that running out of gas hurts more than paying at the pump. Here's why:

You're going to be late. This one is the most obvious reason why running out of gas will hurt you. At best, you call a friend to bring you a can of gas or you are within walking distance of a gas station. At worst, you call AAA or the police, which will take at least an hour. Either way, it's going to cost you valuable time and be a very embarrassing situation. 

It's dangerous. When you run out of gas, your engine stops. There isnt any fuel to move the pistons to move the cylinders, so your engine just quits. If you have power steering, you'll lose that. Your brakes will feel heavier too, which increases braking distances. The only things you'll likely have are those entirely on electrical power like your radio and lights, which will be of little consolation if you're going 60-plus mph on the highway. That's flat-out dangerous. Post continues after these recent videos.

It's bad for your engine and fuel pump. Over the years, your gas tank has accumulated a lot of crap at the bottom. When you run out of gas, you basically take all that crap and push it into your engine in an attempt to fire the pistons. It's not good to let that sediment into the chamber and you may do your engine harm. It could also cause the fuel pump to overheat.

You may get fined. You can get fined for running out of gas on a major road. Some municipalities have laws like that to prevent drivers from trying to get every last mile out of a tank of gas. This is to prevent the dangerous situations that can develop when a driver discovers his car no longer drives. The fines typically aren't as high as those for speeding tickets, but even a $50 fine is too much. Wouldn't you rather put $50 into a tank of gas rather than into the coffers of your municipality?


I can understand wanting to get more miles, but running your car on fumes isn't the way to do it. Here are some more sensible gas-saving tips.


More on Bargaineering and MSN Money:

May 9, 2011 6:21PM

The author is assuming the driver has funds to buy gas and simply chooses to delay the inevitable. The people I know who are running out of gas are making a desperate attempt to make it to next payday...

May 10, 2011 1:17PM

Man, MSN must be really hard up for topics to write about.  If you run out of fuel, you might not get to your destination on time?  REALLY?  Like we never would've realized that!  Sheesh.  And it does not force "all of the crud" from the bottom of your tank into your engine.  There is a fuel filter on every new vehicle sold in America.  Where do they get these nitwits who write articles on cars/trucks while acting like they know what they are talking about? 

Love the generic, arm-chair automobile advice.  Cylinders don't move, pistons (valves/cams/crankshaft, etc.) do.  If your cylinders are 'moving,' you've got bigger issues than running out of petrol.  Either these sage bits of commentary are written for people that are lacking grey matter OR written by those that are (sorry Mr. Wang).  Beyond the 'helpful' running out of fuel can cost you time and be a pain, the only real part is that it can, indeed, be bad for the fuel pump/fuel injection...
May 10, 2011 12:24PM
Really good article.  Nothing irks me much more than people crying about $4.00 gasoline when they drink a couple of $4.00 lattes or cappuccinos a day.  Get real.  We have literally the cheapest gasoline in the group of industrialized nations.    
May 10, 2011 7:23AM
Of course, if one runs out of gas often enough the dirt never has a chance to build up! LOL. Never filling the tank more than half way will slightly improve the mileage and putting down the cell and paying diligent attention to driving technique and route planning will also yield improved mileage and days between gas purchases.
May 9, 2011 9:43PM

If the powers that be were NOT so @#*&!@# GREEDY people would NOT be running out of gas, or money or PATIENCE!!!!!Angry

May 10, 2011 9:16AM

A dealer mechanic once told me that if you run out of gas in some cars (a VW GTI in my case), you mess up the fuel delivery system and have to have the garage reprime (or something) the system before the car will start again.  You can't just add gas.


Don't know if this is true or not, but it would be another reason not to run out of gas.

May 10, 2011 12:57PM

When prices are RISING, the most financially economical way of fueling your car is to top off the tank often.  Let's say you have a 40 gallon tank & you use 10 gallons/week.  If you filled up when prices were in a trough, say $3/gal, you spent $120.  Over the next month, prices go up $0.25/week until it hits $4/gal.  If you wait until empty, you fill it up again for another $160. This is a total of $280 for 2 months. If you top off frequently in the same time period, like weekly in this unrealistic scenario, you would pay $32.50 the 1st week, $35.00 the second week, $37.50 the 3rd week and $40 the final week, for a 2 month total of $265.  That $15 represents over a 5% savings.

When prices are FALLING, you should burn off all of the more expensive gas in your tank first, then fill up with the cheaper gas at the end to save money. 

May 10, 2011 12:21PM

Why are we paying for RETAIL that is the the equivalent of almost $180.00 per barrel???

Because you then have to transport the oil, refine it, transport it again, then finally sell it.  Thats 3-4 more people who each need a profit, tacking on more to the price.


The guy at the gas station makes about $0.05 a gallon, regardless of price, so you can't even blame them.


Remember people, its basic capitalism.  If you are willing to purchase $4.50/Gallon, then oil is worth $4.50 a gallon.  Since margins are so low to begin with, there is no way for local stations to compete on price, and the big oil companies will never compete against eachother directly on price.  There is NO mechanism to drive prices lower.


If you want to reduce oil prices, then close of the oil markets to all but those who have an interest in what oil actually costs.  Take away the speculators trying to make a quick buck, and oil will drop 50%, at least. 


Then again, people like me warned this would happen when the markets were de-regulated, but no, some political parties had to argue that opening the markets to speculators would somehow spread profits and reduce prices...

May 10, 2011 2:47PM

Now maybe I missed something, but the last time I changed a gas tank on a car, it sure looked to me like the fuel was drawn out of the bottom of the tank.  So I am wondering, how does sediment build up in the bottom of the tank, when the fuel is constantly being drawn out of the bottom of the tank???? 


Anyway, the real reason that running low on fuel is bad for your fuel pump, is that most cars now have the fuel pump in the tank.  That pump is run on electricy, but since it is submerged most of the time, the motor can't be cooled with air, so it is cooled by the fuel that touches the motor housing.  When your tank gets that low, the motor housing is no longer submerged and the motor loses its cooling, and runs hotter than designed, which shortens its life.  On a nice hot summer day, one can overheat the pump to the point that the thermal safety on the motor shuts it off. 

May 10, 2011 11:33AM
That is three good reasons. I'm pretty certain that the fuel pump always pulls from the bottom of the fuel tank. I'm not sure how you pick up more sediment when the intake is in the same location.
May 10, 2011 3:24PM
Over the years, your gas tank has "accumulated a lot of crap at the bottom". When you run out of gas, "you basically take all that crap and push it into your engine" in an attempt to fire the pistons. - those lines there made me LMFAO! XD HAHAHAHAHA... really? the writer couldn't think of anything better and used those terms? whenever i go to my mechanic i always make sure he checks to see if my Crap is in working order...awesome
May 10, 2011 4:23PM
The only real way to stop greedy oil companies is to buy an electric car or a Chevy volt.  Then you can give the finger to gas stations. 
May 10, 2011 12:30PM

Has it ever occurred to anyone that it actually takes money to pay the truck drivers that deliver the gasoline to the service station, or the attendant at the station, or the men and women who work in the refinery, or along product or crude oil pipelines?  How about amortizing the billions of dollars in investment in the refineries?  And of course, i am sure you forgot about the parts of a barrel of crude oil that don't turn into gasoline - you think maybe the asphalt on the roads comes from the bottom of a chicken coop?  


People like you deserve to pay $8.00 a gallon just for demonstrating your lack of knowledge.

May 10, 2011 12:07PM

It's crazy what the oil companies are charging for gas, but it does no good to complain.   We have plenty of oil right here in the US, but we are not going to use it.  Wake up people, nothing is going to change, as long as we keep using and paying the price.

There needs to be a way to send a message to the oil companies that enough is enough.

There are all kinds of emails floating around about not buying gas for 1 day.  Problem is no one will do it.  Everyone thinks someone else is going to or will do it and what difference would one person make. 

As long as we keep using and paying their price, gas prices will not go down. 

Try to set up and get into car pooling in town.  Driving cars in town is a big waste of gas.  Stop and go driving and low speed limits are hard on gas mileage.

On the highway, drive slower.  I have a car that gets 30 MPG at 70-75 MPH depending on conditions.  Not that bad.  If I drive that same car at 55-60 MPH, I can get 40+ MPG.  If everyone would slow down, we could save a bunch of gas. 

May 10, 2011 10:51AM
May 10, 2011 12:59PM
our infrastructure is falling apart because we don't pay fuel taxes commensurate with the costs now to maintain that infrastructure and our politicians are afraid to propose those tax increase.  Those would raise fuel cost, but reduce vehicle miles driven, the size and weight of the vehicles using that infrastructure and thereby the long term costs of maintenance.  The initial hit would be substantial though and that's what keeps us from doing it.
May 9, 2011 10:43PM
guys dont beat around the is a product called XFT Extreme that i bought from GasSavingBlog_com . this product is awesome. it makes me go to the gas station once every two weeks after i fill up my tank. my camaro z28 used to give me 300 miles on a full tank before but since i started using XFT Extreme fuel treatment, my camaro z28 give me 425 miles on a full tank. i tried it risk free, and i want to share it with you guys. pass up the news to your neighbors
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