HELENA, Mont.—With gas prices nearing record levels, motorists who attempt to stretch a tank of gas too far could end up stranded at the roadside. AAA cautions drivers that allowing their car to run out of fuel can not only put them in a potentially dangerous situation, but also could result in costly repair bills.
“We realize some motorists are trying to be resourceful and delay fuel expenditures by driving their car until the gas tank is nearly empty, but this can sometimes do more harm than good,” said Tara Hanley, AAA spokesman.
Costly repairs from running on empty
Running a vehicle extremely low on fuel may cause sediment in the bottom of the tank to clog the fuel pump pickup, the fuel filter or even the fuel injectors. In addition, when a minimum level of fuel is not maintained, it could cause the electric fuel pump inside the tank to overheat. The cost to replace that one component alone can be $500 or more in parts and labor.
Dangers of running out of gas
Running out of gas also can put the personal safety of a motorist and their passengers in jeopardy should the vehicle suddenly become immobilized on the roadway.
“Power steering and brakes can be lost when the engine dies, and drivers can end up stranded in the middle of a busy highway without the ability to move their vehicle,” Hanley noted. “Fortunately, out-of-gas situations are completely avoidable just by keeping an eye on the fuel gauge.”
Finding the lowest-priced gas before hitting E
AAA recommends drivers always maintain at least a quarter tank of fuel.
“We understand everyone today is looking to save money by finding the lowest-priced gas before they fill up,” Hanley said. “AAA can help in that quest with several free tools drivers can use to plan their fill-ups in advance so they both save money and avoid running out of gas.”
Both the TripTik Travel Planner on AAA.com and the free AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone app can help drivers plan efficient routes for errands and locate the best places to stop for gas along the way. And on the go, AAA TripTik Mobile provides motorists with turn-by-turn navigation and audible directions. Both tools allow drivers to compare frequently-updated fuel costs at gas stations near their location.
Safe, smart ways to save on gas
Rather than stretching their fuel supply too far, AAA urges motorists to make a few simple changes in their driving habits that can greatly improve fuel economy.
“Instead of making quick starts and sudden stops, go easy on the gas and brake pedals,” Hanley said. “If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast up to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, accelerate gently rather than making a ‘jack rabbit’ start.”
The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can reduce a car’s fuel economy up to 33 percent.
Speed also is a key factor in conserving fuel. The fuel efficiency of most vehicles decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
“Every additional 5 mph above 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas,” Hanley said. “Take it easy on the road, and you’ll see a tremendous savings at the pump.”
AAA offers more than 40 ways motorists can reduce the amount of fuel they consume in its “Gas Watchers Guide,” available online at AAA.com/PublicAffairs.
From the June 15-21, 2011 issue