The warning light indicates that the fuel has reached the reserve level, which is about 10 to 15 percent of your tank’s total capacity. You can use that reference along with your car’s average fuel economy to calculate your remaining range, but it’s a good idea to not risk running the car until it’s dry.
While standing on the side of the road with your empty car waiting for a tow truck or walking to the nearest gas station and returning with a jerry can is embarrassing enough, there’s another serious concern that could impact your wallet. And it will be way more expensive than a tank of gas.
In your fuel tank, there is a contraption called a fuel pump, which sends the fuel from the tank to the engine. The fuel pump relies on the gasoline in the tank to keep it cool and lubricated. Running the car with a low tank means that the pump isn’t staying as lubricated as it should and is at risk of overheating. The obvious downside to this is premature failure of the pump.
That’s a pretty expensive repair. Failing fuel pumps will lead to poor performance, particularly with a car not accelerating smoothly or starting at all.
Your fuel pump also has a fuel filter, which can quickly get dirty if you drive with a low tank. Since any sediment or dirt sinks to the bottom of the tank, the fuel filter could end up getting blocked or could take in dirty fuel, which also has costly consequences.
Ignoring your car’s low fuel warning is generally a bad idea, and running your car on empty can cause serious and costly problems to your car’s fuel system. Keep that in mind the next time your car nags you to visit the gas station.
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